De Lima on UN probe don’ts: Censorship
Embattled Sen. Leila de Lima scored the government on Saturday for imposing restrictions on the United Nations and other investigators from international bodies it plans to invite to check on President Duterte’s war on drugs that has left over 3,000 suspects dead so far.
De Lima said the administration’s conditions betrayed the intent of what are supposed to be independent investigations into the killings. She said the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) restrictions were tantamount to “censorship and control.”
“While it is within the prerogative 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,” De Lima told the Inquirer.
“What kind of investigation can we expect if the government is going to decide how the investigation is going to be conducted by the UN rapporteur’s team?” she said.
Amid the rising death toll, an angry President Duterte has invited the United Nations, the European Union and, most recently, even US President Barack Obama to come to the Philippines to see the situation for themselves.
He said the international experts could visit the country and quiz authorities on the death toll, but he said they must also be prepared to answer questions from him directly.
The death toll has risen beyond 3,000, but police and Malacañang have repeatedly explained that the figure includes all killings, even those not related to antidrug operations.
In remarks on Friday, Duterte, who had several times verbalized his intent to kill drug pushers, explained that extrajudicial killings were not state policy. He, however, has told the police and military in speeches not to fear legal repercussions if they harm a suspect who resists arrest—he will take ultimate responsibility.
DFA sets ground rules
The DFA on Friday laid down its parameters for the international investigators, including “the list of people to be interviewed and places to be visited.”
It said the international organizations must agree to the “protocol and parameters” that it would set as a condition to visiting the country. In particular, the DFA said, the foreign probers may not be allowed to go to the slums where most of the killings have taken place due to safety concerns.
“What is the sense of inviting independent probers if they are not going to be allowed freedom of movement and action, and are going to be dictated upon on the extent of their visits and sources of information?” De Lima said on Saturday.
“Under any standards, an investigation under such constraints, can no longer be deemed independent. Protocol does not mean censorship and control over the ability of the UN team to conduct an independent, credible and exhaustive probe,” the senator added.
Earlier last week, De Lima filed a resolution seeking Senate action to urge the administration to allow a UN investigation, citing perceptions “that our local institutions of law enforcement and justice, including domestic mechanisms of accountability of public officials, appear to be either inadequate, compromised or weak.”
She said local authorities, including the police and the National Bureau of Investigation “cannot be expected to even initiate—much less sustain—an independent investigation into the killings.”/rga
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