Duterte's wish to question UN team 'not asking for moon and stars' - Palace
(Philstar.com) - September 25, 2016 - 5:12pm
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang said Sunday it is ready to cooperate with representatives of the United Nations (UN) who will visit the Philippines to look into the drug-related killings following claims that the administration is imposing restrictions on the probe.
 
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar noted that the president himself had invited the UN and the European Union (EU) to come to the country to conduct their investigations.
 
 
“That’s what the president said. In fact, he himself said that when he invited the EU and UN to conduct their investigation on the issue of human rights and extrajudicial killings,” Andanar told state-run radio station dzRB when asked if the government is ready to cooperate with the UN probe.
 
“It only demonstrates that the president is open to international organizations who want to look at the record of extrajudicial killings and human rights.”
 
Andanar said he was not aware of the restrictions allegedly being imposed on the UN investigators.
 
“What I know is the president merely said that after (they) ask questions, (he) will then ask questions,” he said.
 
“I don't think that is asking for the moon and stars.”
 
About 3,000 suspected drug offenders have been killed, about half of them in police operations, since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office last July.
 
The UN and the EU have called out Duterte for the alleged extralegal killing of suspected drug offenders and have asked him to uphold human rights in all law enforcement efforts. The United States, a longtime ally and treaty partner of the Philippines, has also expressed concerns over the killings and has reminded Duterte to carry out his drug crackdown the right way.
 
The statements did not sit well with Duterte, who responded by saying that no foreign group or country should meddle with the Philippines’ affairs.  He also lambasted the US, the EU and the UN for supposedly lecturing the Philippines on human rights despite their failure to solve the problems in their backyard.
 
Last Thursday, an irate Duterte challenged the UN and the EU to send their representatives to the Philippines to probe the spate of killings that were linked to his war on drugs.
 
“Send the best player of your town. Even the rapporteurs, come to the Philippines,” Duterte said during the inauguration of a power plant in Misamis Oriental.
 
“I’ll write them a letter to invite them for an investigation but in keeping with the time honored principle of the right to be heard. After they ask me questions, I’ll ask them one by one,” he added.  
 
The president claimed that he would easily win if pitted against representatives of UN and EU in a debate on human rights.
 
 
The UN will send an 18-man team to the Philippines on Sept. 28 to 29 to assess the human rights situation in the Philippines. It remains unsure though if there would be a debate between Duterte and the UN representatives because the president will be in Vietnam on those dates for a working visit.
 
Last Saturday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the UN team should comply with protocols set by the Philippines including the need to get government approval on the places they would visit and the people they would interview. DFA spokesman Charles Jose said the UN team may not be permitted to go to slum areas to talk to the families of victims for their own safety.
 
Sen. Leila de Lima, a critic of Duterte’s anti-drug war, believes the administration is trying to censor and restrict the UN probe.
 
“While it is within the prerogatives of the Philippine government as the host country, through the DFA, to set reasonable parameters for the visit of the UN special rapporteurs and other UN probers, I find questionable the announced rule that it is the government that will decide the places to be visited and the persons to be interviewed by these probers,” she said.

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