Duterte needs ‘psychiatric evaluation’: UN slams Philippines leader after rights defender is named on terrorist ‘hit list’
The president has been venting his fury at the Maoists almost on a daily basis and considers them as much of a security threat as domestic militant groups
The United Nations has lashed out at the Philippines government and said President Rodrigo Duterte needs “psychiatric evaluation” after one of its special rapporteurs was included on a list of 600 people declared to be communist terrorists.
In a petition filed in a Manila court last month, the Department of Justice listed more than 600 people it wanted to be categorised as rebels for “using acts of terror” to undermine the government. Among them was the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, for allegedly being a senior member of the Maoist rebel group.
The petition, made public on Friday, would give the government power to closely monitor the movements and limit the resources of anyone on the list.
Tauli-Corpuz denounced the government for branding her a terrorist and putting her life at risk, calling the allegations “baseless, malicious and irresponsible”.
The UN said the accusations were an act of retaliation for Tauli-Corpuz’s recent criticism of the attacks on and killings of indigenous Lumad people in the Philippines. It said the claims violated the UN convention on human rights.
“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. The president has himself publicly intimidated special rapporteurs,” said Michel Forst, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
“Ms Tauli-Corpuz is a human rights defender,” he added. “We call on the Philippine authorities to immediately drop these unfounded accusations against Ms Tauli-Corpuz and to ensure her physical safety and that of others listed.”
Meanwhile, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said “it makes one believe that the president of the Philippines needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric evaluation”.
Zeid and other UN rights officials have focused significant attention on Duterte’s controversial drug war. Police have killed more than 4,100 drug suspects, but rights groups allege more than 8,000 others have been murdered in what they describe as crimes against humanity.
The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, has become a particular Duterte target over her criticism of his campaign to stamp out illegal drugs.
However, the “government hit list”, as it was called by Human Rights Watch, appears to stem from President 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. Since then, Duterte has been vicious in his attacks on the communists and his recent controversial comments to “ shoot women in the vagina ” were directed at female communist rebel fighters.
While their numbers are relatively small, there still continue to be frequent reports of communists killing security forces across the Philippines, which Duterte has vowed to end.
Others included in the government petition are four former priests, the environmental campaigner Sherwin de Vera, the CPP founder, José Maria Sison, and 18 leaders of the party.
In a statement, Sison said Duterte was launching an anti-communist witch-hunt “to silence all his critics and opposition to his cruel and corrupt regime, and to realise completely his fascist dictatorship”.
Sison, who lives in the Netherlands, was Duterte’s mentor at university though the pair are now bitter enemies. “It is Duterte who is truly the No 1 terrorist in the Philippines,” he said.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the Maoist rebellion. Negotiations to end the revolt have been on and off since being brokered by Norway in 1986.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and Reuters