Philippines slams UN rights chief for ‘disrespectful’ remarks about Duterte

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he speaks during a press conference in Davao City, in the southern island of Mindanao on February 9, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 10 March 2018

Philippines slams UN rights chief for ‘disrespectful’ remarks about Duterte

MANILA: The Philippine foreign minister hit back on Saturday at the United Nations’ human rights chief for issuing “irresponsible and disrespectful” comments about President Rodrigo Duterte, warning such remarks could set a dangerous precedent.
Duterte’s attacks against UN human rights activists suggest he needs to see a psychiatrist, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein told a news conference on Friday.
Zeid’s comments came after the Philippine justice ministry filed a petition in a Manila court seeking the declaration of more than 600 alleged communist guerrillas, including a UN special rapporteur, as “terrorists,” a development first reported by Reuters.
The petition included Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, appointed in 2014 as UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, who was listed as a senior member of the country’s Maoist rebel group.
Tauli-Corpuz called the complaint “baseless, malicious and irresponsible.”
Zeid said Duterte’s attacks against UN special rapporteurs cannot go unanswered and the UN Human Rights Council must take a position. He said the Philippine leader “needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric examination.”
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter 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.”
Duterte has also repeatedly insulted the current UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, because of her criticism of his bloody anti-narcotics campaign.
The Philippines welcomed a UN investigation into Duterte’s signature war on drugs but objected to Callamard leading it, saying she was biased and not qualified.
Cayetano said in a strongly worded statement the Philippines was bothered by “the manner in which a ranking UN human rights official can overstep his mandate and insult leaders of member-states without first giving them due process.”
“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,” he said.
Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said Zeid’s language was an affront to Philippine sovereignty.
“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,” he said in a message to Zeid.


Hong Kong police fire tear gas to break up anti-government protest

Updated 52 min 54 sec ago

Hong Kong police fire tear gas to break up anti-government protest

  • Hong Kong police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march
  • The protests had lost some of their intensity in recent weeks

HONG KONG: Police fired tear gas on Sunday to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters who gathered in a central Hong Kong park, but later spilled onto the streets in violation of police orders.
Out in numbers before the demonstration began, police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march. Several units of police in riot gear were seen chasing protesters and several arrests were made.
A water cannon truck drove on central streets, flanked by an armored jeep, but was not used.
Organizers initially applied for a permit for a march, but police only agreed to a static rally in the park, saying previous marches have turned violent.
Once protesters spilled onto the streets, some of them, wearing all-black clothing, barricaded the roads with umbrellas and street furniture, dug up bricks from the pavement and smashed traffic lights.
The “Universal Siege Against Communism” demonstration was the latest in a relentless series of protests against the government since June, when Hong Kongers took to the streets to voice their anger over a now-withdrawn extradition bill.
The protests, which have since broadened to include demands for universal suffrage and an independent investigation into police handling of the demonstrations, had lost some of their intensity in recent weeks.
In an apparent new tactic, police have been showing up ahead of time in riot gear, with officers conducting “stop and search” operations near expected demonstrations.
“Everyone understands that there’s a risk of stop-and-search or mass arrests. I appreciate Hong Kong people still come out courageously, despite the risk,” said organizer Ventus Lau.
On Jan 1, a march of tens of thousands of people ended with police firing tear gas to disperse crowds.
The gathering in the park was initially relaxed, with many families with children listening to speeches by activists.
In one corner, a group of volunteers set up a stand where people could leave messages on red cards for the lunar new year to be sent to those who have been arrested. One read: “Hong Kongers won’t give up. The future belongs to the youth”.
Authorities in Hong Kong have arrested more than 7,000 people, many on charges of rioting that can carry jail terms of up to 10 years. It is unclear how many are still in custody.
Anger has grown over the months due to perceptions that Beijing was tightening its grip over the city, which was handed over to China by Britain in 1997 in a deal that ensured it enjoyed liberties unavailable in the mainland.
Beijing denies meddling and blames the West for fomenting unrest.