Remulla: Philippines has invited special rapporteur on EJKs to visit in 2023


MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has invited a third special rapperteur as part of capacity building on human rights under the United Nations Joint Programme, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said Monday, adding the move shows the government is open to suggestions.

Mama Fatima Singhateh — special rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children — and Irene Khan — on freedom of expression and media — are already scheduled to visit the country. 

During their visits, they will assess the situation and the progress made in combating and preventing the sale and sexual exploitation of children and problems regarding freedom of the press in the light of international human rights norms and standards. 

"We also invited a third one on extrajudicial killings because we want to increase and do capacity building for our forensic pathologists in the country," he said. 

Morris Tidball-Binz, a medical doctor from Chile who specializes in forensic science, human rights and humanitarian action, is currently the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary killings.

RELATED: PNP chief: 46 killed in 'war on drugs' operations under Marcos

Special rapporteurs need an invitation from the government for them to make official visits. The Duterte administration did not extend an invitation to Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur at the time and a vocal critic of the "war on drugs", to visit the Philippines. 

"We are hoping to engage them, invite them to the [Department of Justice] for a special dialogue on any issue that they want to bring up," Remulla said of the special rapporteurs.

The justice chief said the invitation to Dr. Tidball-Binz is "more of a follow-up" to the capacity building under UNJP. "What they saw was a country open to suggestions and that did not deny that there were problems in the system," Remulla said. 

There are only two licensed and internationally recognized forensic pathologists in the country: Drs. Raquel Fortun and Cecilia Lim. 

"The rest of them are medico-legal experts but not the level of forensic pathologists that we want in a country like ours," Remulla said. 

"If there are deaths and murders in the provinces, at least they can help us with the investigations. If our people are already trained, then we will have experts determining the results."

Remulla bristles at rights groups

Remulla went on to hit back at groups critical of his visit to the United Nations Human Rights Council, saying they only want to make the country look bad.

The justice secretary has been crioticized for saying that the Philippines cannot accept the enactment of divorce, SOGIE bill, and other pro-women and pro-LGBTQIA+ policies that the rights council recommended because the country is "predominantly Catholic."

Groups also said the Philippine government failed to convince the UNHRC of the improvement on the human rights situation in the country.

READ: Duterte 'drug war' still hot topic as Marcos admin faces UN rights review

"We noticed that there are a lot of civil society organizations that were very very critical of what we were doing, but these are the same organizations that only go to Europe to destroy the image of our country. I don't think they have any agenda but to destroy our country and give our people a hard time," he said. 

Remulla, who has defended the practice of labeling dissenters and critics as rebels, claimed that government critics are linked to the decades-old communist insurgency.

READ: Philippines urged to ensure safety and democratic space for rights defenders

"These are [civil society organziations] that are somehow linked to the armed movement against government, those linked to terrorism. Those who cry red-tagging or issues of this nature. Otherwise I think our country is in the right direction," he also said without proof. — Franco Luna

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