MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday night, March 9, castigated United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein for his "irresponsible and disrespectful" statement that President Rodrigo Duterte needs "psychiatric evaluation."
"There is no reason whatsoever for such an unmeasured outburst directed against President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and it should not be repeated," Cayetano said.
In suggesting a psychiatric evaluation for the Philippine leader, Zeid cited Duterte's "foul" tirades against UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard, a critic of the killings in Duterte's drug war; and the inclusion of Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, in a government list of people it wants legally tagged as "terrorists."
Duterte had threatened to slap Callamard if she tried to probe the Philippine drug war. To this, Zeid said, "It is absolutely disgraceful that the president of a country could speak in this way, using the foulest of language against a rapporteur that is highly respected."
In response, Cayetano said: "The Philippines takes grave exception to the irresponsible and disrespectful comments of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that cast untoward aspersions regarding the President of the Republic of the Philippines."
"This action of High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein 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," he added.
Cayetano also said that Duterte is even worth emulating.
"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," he said.
The Philippine leader remains popular despite continued criticism of human rights abuses and killings in his drug war, and his attacks on press freedom.
Cayetano said that Zeid should have checked first why the Philippine government wants to include Corpuz in its list of "terrorists."
Cayetano said information gathered by the Philippine military and police point to Tauli-Corpuz's alleged links to the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee (ICRC) of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA), which Duterte wants legally tagged as a terrorist organization.
Duterte earlier issued a proclamation tagging the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group months after he terminated peace talks with communist rebels. In line with this, the Department of Justice filed a petition before a Manila court seeking to tag as terrorists 649 people, including hundreds of John Does, under the Human Security Act.
"If indeed Ms Tauli-Corpuz and the others named in the petition are innocent as they claim they are, they should see this as an opportunity to clear their names and prove in court that they have never been members of or associated with the group," Cayetano said
Human rights groups have labeled the justice department's petition as a "virtual government hit list."
Cayetano suggested that the UN rights chief – whose statements were prompted by Duterte's attacks on US special rapporteurs – was "being used" by groups out to unseat Duterte.
"The High Commissioner 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 said. – Rappler.com