Malacañang sees improved ties between Duterte, new UN rights chief
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Malacañang expects warmer ties between the Philippine government and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights after the appointment of former Chile president Michelle Bachelet as the new UN rights chief.
"We are optimistic that we will have better relations with the new High Commissioner for Human Rights," said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque on Thursday, August 9, during a Palace news briefing.
Bachelet's appointment was announced by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday.
She has twice served as Chile's president and was the first director of UN Women, the UN agency promoting gender equality worldwide.
Ranking among the world's most powerful women in politics, Bachelet has been described by Guterres as having a "history of dynamic global leadership, highly-honed political skills and a recognized ability to create consensus."
Different from Zeid?
If Bachelet's appointment is approved by the vote of the UN General Assembly, she will take the place of Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the Jordanian royal who earned Duterte's ire by being critical of the Philippine government's campaign against illegal drugs.
Zeid, as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, had once even suggested Duterte undergo a "psychiatric evaluation" after the President launched a volley of insults against UN rapporteurs.
Zeid has also condemned Duterte's threat to slap UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard who has been vocal about his administration's bloody anti-drugs campaign.
For these remarks, Roque accused Zeid of resorting to "crude language," dismissing observations that the Philippine leader has done the same.
Duterte has called Zeid "empty-headed" and a "son of a whore."
Most Filipinos found the Philippine leader's tirades against Zeid "bastos" or vulgar.
Roque surmised that Bachelet was chosen in the belief that she would do things differently from Zeid.
"I would say that the entire community of states perhaps elected her for a reason noting that no less than the United States has opted to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Commission so I think the election of this new High Commissioner for UN Human Rights must be a result of compromise," he said.
Zeid has been criticized for supposedly antagonizing countries through his use of strong language against country leaders. Others, however, have said making enemies out of the powerful comes with the job of UN rights chief.
Zeid had also been critical of US President Donald Trump, particularly his policy of separating migrant children from their parents as they crossed the US border.
Duterte's fiercest critic, Senator Leila de Lima, also has "high hopes" in Banchelet, but she believes she would be like her predecessor.
"Like her predecessor, Bachelet promises to be fearless and uncompromising in the defense of human rights and in the fight against human rights violators," De Lima said in a statement n Saturday, August 11.
The detained senator noted that Bachelet and her family were victims of human rights violations under Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
"She also suffered arbitrary detention, torture, and exile. Despite this, she went on to join the fight for the restoration of democracy in Chile, and eventually become its first woman President," De Lima said.
"Bachelet is therefore an ideal figure to occupy the UN High Commissioner post. I expect her to be unyielding in her convictions. She will not be easily intimidated by the world’s dictators and tyrants like Duterte," she added. – Rappler.com