MALACAñANG denied Saturday that the inclusion of Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on IDPs in the petition to declare the CPP-NPA as a terror group, was a witch hunt, but advised the United Nations to “fine-tune” selection process so individuals identified with terrorist groups would not be given any mandate.
“I assure everyone, including the international community, that it is not a witch hunt on UN special rapporteurs,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told a press conference.
“Instead, perhaps, the UN rapporteur system should fine tune its selection process to ensure that individuals identified with terrorist groups are not given any mandate by the UN Human Rights Council,” Roque said.
At the same time, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Friday night it was taking grave exception to the “irresponsible and disrespectful” comments of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights against President Rodrigo Duterte.
“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,” Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement.
Cayetano made the statement after the UN official suggested that President Duterte “needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric examination.”
He said there was no reason whatsoever for such outburst directed against the President.
“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 said.
In a related development:
• Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison on Friday accused Duterte as the number one terrorist in the country for allegedly running amok, slandering people under the guise of fighting terrorism.
In a statement, Sison said “Duterte has been engaged in a wild, anti-communist witch hunt, killing people on his spurious list of so-called terrorists.”
Also, Sison said to silence “patriotic and progressive” Filipinos and the political opposition, Duterte had resorted to intimidation, brandishing a fake list of suspects slapped with trumped-up charges.
Moreover, he said the present administration’s move to shift the form of government from unitary to federal was “just a ploy to perpetuate
Duterte’s cruel ... fascist regime, which is out to railroad Charter change efforts into coming out with a pseudo-federal constitution.”
In a petition filed in a Manila court last month, the Department of Justice said it wanted the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, tagged as terrorist organizations.
Roque issued the statement after UN experts called for the Philippine Department of Justice to drop her name from a list of 600 members of the CPP-NPA that the DoJ had asked the court to declare as a terrorist group.
Roque said Corpuz was included in the list “because of intelligence information that she is somehow connected with the CPP-NPA.”
“The DoJ would not have filed the petition without evidence that she is a member of or somehow affiliated with the CPP-NPA,” Roque said.
He guaranteed that the Philippines, as a “civilized country,” would allow Corpuz to defend herself, urging her to present evidence she was not part of the CPP-NPA.
“In any case, we are a civilized country in the Philippines, we will accord Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz the right to be heard, inherent due process rights...” Roque said.
Roque said she could dispute the classification in the regional trial court where the petition to declare the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group was pending.
“In our legal system, we adhere to the rule of law and hence, Corpuz can submit controverting evidence to what I am sure the DoJ already has linking her with the terrorist group—the CPP-NPA,” Roque said.
He said this classification of Rapporteur Corpuz had also resulted in very harsh language from the Prince of Jordan, who is also the High Commissioner on Human Rights.
“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 abominate used by the UN High Commissioner,” Roque said.
The presidential spokesman said such language directed against a democratically-elected head of a UN member-country was uncalled for, and was an affront on the sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines.
“I will, however, state that 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,” he said.
“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 state,” Roque added.
In a news conference, Zeid also referred to a pending case against Tauli-Corpuz over her alleged links to the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.
Zeid said Tauli-Corpuz believed the case was due to her comments against the alleged killings of indigenous people in southern Mindanao where Duterte declared martial law to quell threats of terrorism after the Marawi siege ended.
Cayetano said the High Commissioner made the statement without first ascertaining the facts surrounding the inclusion of Tauli-Corpuz in the petition filed by the Department of Justice against the CPP-NPA.
“Contrary to the impression of the High Commissioner, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz was included in the list not because of her position as Special Rapporteur but because of her alleged links with the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee [ICRC] of the CPP-NPA, which, if the High Commissioner is not aware of, is in the list of foreign terrorist organizations of both the United States and the European Union,” he pointed out.
“The High Commissioner may wish to know that the petition for proscription filed by the Department of Justice is a civil case that seeks to declare the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization for its continuing terrorist activities in the Philippines,” he added.
Cayetano noted the action is in accordance with Republic Act No. 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007 of the Philippines and was intended to protect the Filipino people.
“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.
If indeed Tauli-Corpuz and the others named in the petition are innocent, Cayetano said 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.
“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,” the foreign affairs chief said.
Cayetano said “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.” With PNA