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Palace: Duterteâs âcrocodileâ response to United Nations appropriate

Last Friday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Duterte should see a psychiatrist after the Philippine president hurled tirades at human rights experts who criticized his controversial war on illegal drugs. AFP

Palace: Duterte’s ‘crocodile’ response to United Nations appropriate

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - March 13, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday cried foul over the remark of a United Nations official that President Duterte should undergo psychiatric evaluation but claimed that the Philippine leader’s remark about throwing investigators to crocodiles is “appropriate.”

Last Friday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Duterte should see a psychiatrist after the Philippine president hurled tirades at human rights experts who criticized his controversial war on illegal drugs. 

The following day, Duterte reiterated his order for security forces to ignore UN rapporteurs who would come to the country to conduct a probe. He also threatened to throw UN human rights experts to crocodiles “that are really eating human beings.” 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Al Hussein’s remarks were not acceptable because the UN is supposed to respect heads of state. 

He stressed that the UN body is composed of states and heads of state who should not be accorded that kind of language.

“The comments are wholly unacceptable. And I would say that, for now, there are already communications ongoing between no less than the UN secretary-general and the secretary of foreign affairs. Let’s just say that that kind of a comment is not conducive to having further investigations in the Philippines by any special rapporteur,” Roque added. 

When reminded that Duterte called former US president Barack Obama a “son of a b****,” Roque said the President is a head of state and not a UN official. Duterte insulted Obama in 2016 to highlight what he claimed was an attempt by the US to interfere with his war on illegal drugs. 

“UN officials should, as a matter of course, respect sitting heads of state, because after all the UN is an international organization composed of sovereign states. And the sovereign states of course are represented by their respective leaders,” the presidential spokesman said. 

Pressed if he was excusing the language of Duterte but not that of a UN official, Roque replied: “No, there’s a world of difference between a UN official using crude language against a sitting head of state and the President using any kind of language that he wants on a private individual.” 

“Especially in this instance, when the person using the crude language is himself without a democratic mandate,” he added.

Roque clarified that the Duterte administration would not use the remark of Al Hussein to stop any investigation on the killings tied to the drug clampdown. 

“I am just saying that it did not come at an appropriate time,” he said. 

Duterte said Al Hussein’s statement could be treated as a “diplomatic affront.” 

“Until now, I am restraining myself from using similar language. I can assure the good High Commissioner, I’m better at using names,” he added. 

While deploring Al Hussein’s comment against Duterte, Roque sees nothing wrong with the President’s statement that UN human rights investigators should be thrown to crocodiles. 

“It’s an appropriate response to a remark that, as I said, should not have been made by a sitting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,” he said.

Asked if the President would make good on the threat in case the UN sends investigators to the country, Roque said: “I don’t think he is in a position to do it. Come on. They are not even being allowed in to investigate; there would be no occasion to push them to the crocodiles.”

In a speech delivered in Zamboanga City last Saturday, Duterte reminded soldiers not to answer questions from UN investigators, whom he called sons of b******. 

“They got angry because the advice is ‘do not answer questions from them.’ And that is for a reason, legal. That is provided for in the Constitution itself. That’s why I said: ‘Leave it to me.’ If these fools come here, are there crocodiles here? The ones that are really eating people? Throw those sons of b****** to them,” the President said.  

Roque also lashed back at Sen. Leila de Lima, who chided him for his tirades against Al Hussein.

De Lima, who has been critical of Duterte’s anti-drug crackdown, has likened Roque to a “common house fly” and described him as a “fake human rights lawyer.” 

“Enjoy the rest of your life in jail,” Roque said, alluding to the senator’s drug-related charges. 

Despite being one of Duterte’s vocal critics, Sen. Risa Hontiveros joined the outcry against UN human rights chief Al Hussein as his remarks encourage prejudice on the mentally ill.

She said she understood where Al Hussein was coming from and that his statement was borne out of his extreme disgust over Duterte’s remarks against some of the UN’s special rapporteurs. 

“However, as a mental health advocate, I do not approve of statements and opinions about a person’s state of mental health (disclosed or undisclosed) that tend to be prejudicial, especially if the said remarks were made without any psychiatric and psychological basis,” Hontiveros said.

She said she believes the President’s comments against UN special rapporteurs Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Agnes Callamard were unacceptable and deserve the strongest condemnation.

“However, we must express it in a way that will not reinforce the prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behavior directed towards individuals with mental health needs and issues,” the senator said.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said it would be better if Al Hussein will resign “for lacking the steely nerves, self control and extreme patience required of international bureaucrats.”

“UN officials must show extreme patience and respect their member-nations. They are not politicians. They are international bureaucrats,” Pimentel told reporters.

“If he wants to be a politician instead, then he should run and be a politician in his home country and not meddle in the internal affairs of the Philippines,” he said.

He said UN officials receive salaries that come from the contributions of member-states like the Philippines so they cannot use their position and also the UN organization to personally attack the head of a member-state.  – Paolo Romero

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