Philippines slams United Nations rights chief for Duterte remarks

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the meeting with local chief executives from Luzon at the Royce Hotel in Clark Pampanga

Philippines to Declare 600 Alleged Communists 'Terrorists'?

In a speech to Philippine officials on Wednesday, Duterte lashed out at worldwide human rights agencies for criticizing him.

The UN investigator, former lawmaker and four former priests are among more than 600 alleged communist guerrillas the Philippines wants declared "terrorists", according to a Government petition filed in court. The U.N. Human Rights Council must take a position.

Rights groups claim the figure is 12,000 when deaths blamed on pro-government vigilantes are added in.

Two other United Nations special rapporteurs, Michel Forst and Catalina Devandas Aguilar, expressed "grave concern" about Ms Tauli-Corpuz being on the list, and said she was being punished by Mr Duterte for speaking against some of his policies.

Ms Tauli-Corpuz denounced the Government, calling the complaint "baseless, malicious and irresponsible". Manila, as a signatory of the United Nations charter, should recognize its experts were immune from legal proceedings undertaken in the course of their work. "The attack against the special rapporteur 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".

Zeid, whose term as human rights commissioner will end in August, clarified that he was referring to Duterte's remarks about Agnes Callamard, a United Nations expert on extrajudicial killings who sharply criticized the number of people killed in the Philippine president's war on drugs.

Mr Zeid said Mr Duterte's behaviour "makes one believe that the President of the Philippines needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric evaluation". "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.

Sticking up for Duterte, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano challenged Zeid's comments. Jordan's leader is not elected unlike our president.

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"The world actually needs more Dutertes", Cayetano insisted.

The petition will allow government to monitor listed "terrorists" more closely, track finances and curb access to resources, among other measures.

The "government hit list", as it was called by Human Rights Watch, appears to stem from Duterte's signed proclamation that the Communist party of the Philippines (CPP), and its armed wing, the New People's Army, are terrorist groups, following the collapse of peace negotiations in December.

The NPA has waged a People's War against the Philippines government, which is called "semifeudal" and "semicolonial" for half a century.

Duterte "should publicly reject this petition and ensure the safety of those listed in it - or risk being complicit in the resulting crimes", Conde warned.

Worldwide rights groups and local critics have accused Duterte of drifting toward authoritarianism after declaring martial law in the south during a major attack by pro-ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) group militants past year. In January, he announced he would "go after the legal fronts" - the left-wing groups that allegedly support the NPA.

Cayetano said Zeid's remarks "could set a unsafe precedent that the Council would have to immediately address as otherwise member-states could also fall victim to those who seek to politicise and weaponise human rights to undermine legitimate governments".

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