GENEVA — (UPDATE – 10:19 a.m.) President Rodrigo Duterte’s slurs against U.N. rights experts suggest he needs to see a psychiatrist, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein told a news conference on Friday.
“These attacks cannot go unanswered, the U.N. Human Rights Council must take a position,” Zeid said.
“He needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric examination. This kind of comment is unacceptable, unacceptable,” Zeid said.
His comment came after the government filed a petition seeking the designation of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army as “terrorist organizations.”
The petition listed more than 600 alleged “terrorists,” among them U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, who is a native of the Cordillera region, former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo, and four former Catholic priests.
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano quickly reacted to Zeid’s statement, claiming the U.N. official “may not be aware of it but he is being used in a well-orchestrated effort to destabilize a legitimate government that is being undertaken by parties with self-serving agendas and who stand to benefit the most by unseating President Duterte.”
He also defended the inclusion of Tauli-Corpuz in the list.
“Ms. Tauli-Corpuz and the other individuals mentioned in the petition are there because of their membership in or association with the CPP-NPA as reported over the years by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said, adding that the special rapporteur and the others in the list should welcome the opportunity to clear their names in court.
Earlier, Michel Forst, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Catalina Devandas Aguilar, chairperson of the Coordination Committee of the Special Procedures, issued a statement condemning Tauli-Corpuz’s inclusion in the list.
“We are shocked that the Special Rapporteur (Tauli-Corpuz) is being targeted because of her work defending the rights of indigenous peoples,” they said, noting her inclusion “comes after the public comments made, jointly with other special rapporteurs, in relation to the militarization, attacks and killings of indigenous Lumad peoples by members of the armed forces in Mindanao.”
Forst and Aguilar pointed out that the accusation against Tauli-Corpuz “is taking place in the context of widespread extrajudicial executions and ongoing attacks against voices who are critical of the current Government, including human rights defenders.”
Human Rights Watch called the list a “virtual government hit list” and cited “a long history in the Philippines of the state security forces and pro-government militias assassinating people labeled as NPA members or supporters.”
Cayteano said Zeid’s statement “is completely uncalled for and demeans not only the Head of State of a Member-State, but tarnishes the reputation of the Office of the High Commissioner.”
“This could set a dangerous precedent that the Council would have to immediately address as otherwise member-states could also fall victim to those who seek to politicize and weaponize human rights to undermine legitimate governments,” Cayetano added even as he stressed that “the world actually needs more Dutertes — leaders with empathy; leaders who listen to their people; and leaders who are ready to sacrifice their lives to protect their people.”
The human rights group Karapatan, on the other hand, noted that aside from Tauli-Corpuz, the list of supposed terrorists also includes Joan Carling, past secretary general of the Asian Indigenous Peoples’ Pact and former member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; lawyer Jose Molintas, former member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Beverly Longid, gobal coordinator of the International Indigenous Peoples’ Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation; Sandugo co-chairperson Joanna Cariño; Cordillera People’s Alliance chair Windel Bolinget; “and at least 10 lumad datu … in Northern and Southern Mindanao.”
But underscoring the arbitrary nature of the list, it noted that “the list also contains seven names of paramilitary group members including four from the New Indigenous Peoples’ Army, led by Alde ‘Butchoy’ Salusad, who have standing warrants for the killing of lumad leader Datu Jimmy Liguyon” in 2012.
The president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, Edre Olalia, who called the list “an odd concoction,” said the petition was “part of a shotgun witchhunt designed to sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the critics, dissenters, social activists, human rights defenders and revolutionaries alike to give in to the government’s repressive demand.” (with a report from Philippine News Agency)