Malacañang on Saturday slammed the United Nations human rights chief for his remarks against President Rodrigo Duterte. Palace spokesman Harry Roque said the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein remark that Duterte needs to undergo “psychiatric evaluation” was an affront to the nation.
“I reiterate that the language used by the High Commissioner is uncalled for. I’m very tempted to respond in similar language but I have opted to restrain myself, opting not to respond in the same ad hominem used by the UN High Commissioner,” Roque told reporters.
“I will reiterate, however, that such language directed against a democratically-elected head of a UN member-country is uncalled for and is of course an affront on the sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines,” he added. Zeid on Friday said some of Duterte’s actions against UN officials, including his tirades against UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, made “one believe that the President of the Philippines needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric evaluation.”
Zeid said it was disgraceful that a president could use foul language against a rapporteur who is highly respected. Callamard incurred Duterte’s ire for criticizing his bloody war on drugs. Roque said Zeid, by issuing such “very harsh” language against Duterte, does not only offend the Filipino people but also insult “all countries (that) have democratically elected their heads of states.” He told Zeid, a Jordanian prince who is “not elected” unlike Duterte, to respect the Philippines’ democracy.
“Perhaps, the UN High Commissioner’s language is because of the fact that they do not have democracy in his home state of Jordan. Jordan’s leader is not elected unlike our president, and so my message to the High Commissioner is, we respect our president in this country because we gave him a democratic mandate to lead,” Roque said.
“And I would hope that although you do not have the same democratic system in your home country of Jordan, you will respect the kind of democracy that we have in the Philippines. Your language was not just an insult to the Philippines and the Filipino people; It is an insult to all countries who have democratically elected their heads of states,” he added.
On March 7, Zeid criticized Duterte ordering the police not to cooperate with any investigation into his administration’s drug war. “I deplore President Duterte’s statement last week to elite police units that they should not cooperate ‘when it comes to human rights, or whoever rapporteur it is’ and the continued vilification of this Council’s Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial killings by the authorities,” Zeid said.
“The government has a duty to uphold human rights and to engage with persons appointed by this council,” he added. The International Criminal Court (ICC) began its preliminary examination of the communication filed in connection with Duterte’s alleged crimes against humanity.
Malacañang also on Saturday maintained that the inclusion of a UN special rapporteur in the Justice department’s list of alleged terrorists has basis. Local and international human rights groups condemned the petition filed by the Department of Justice that seeks to brand 600 people as terrorists, including UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.
The government said Corpuz had links to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA). Roque said Corpuz landed on the terrorist list “because of intelligence information that she is somehow connected with the CPP-NPA.”
“To begin with, the CPP-NPA had already been declared a terrorist group by the US State Department and by the European Union. This move therefore by the DoJ only reinforces the classification that the CPP-NPA is a terrorist group,” he said.
“The DOJ would have not filed a petition without evidence that she is a member of, or somehow affiliated with the CPP-NPA,” he added. The Palace official also said the government was not out to persecute UN experts who are critical of the Duterte administration.
“We will accord Victoria Tauili Corpuz the right to be heard, her inherent due process rights. And that is why she is not automatically tagged as a terrorist. She can dispute the classification in the Regional Trial Court where the petition to declare the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group is currently pending,” Roque said.