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Philippines' Duterte needs psychiatric evaluation, says U.N. official

A top U.N. official said Rodrigo Duterte ought to submit to a psychiatric evaluation after the Filipino president sought to have several human rights activists declared as "terrorists."
/ Source: Reuters

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's slurs against U.N. human rights activists suggest he needs to see a psychiatrist, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said Friday.

"These attacks cannot go unanswered, the U.N. Human Rights Council must take a position," Zeid told a news conference after Duterte's government sought to get a U.N. investigator, a former Philippine lawmaker and four former Catholic priests declared as "terrorists."

Image: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.Mark R. Cristino / EPA

"He needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric examination. This kind of comment is unacceptable, unacceptable,” Zeid said.

The justice ministry last month said it wanted a Manila court to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), "terrorist" bodies, but made no mention of individuals it would also target.

The petition, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, suggests President Rodrigo Duterte is following through on his threats to destroy a movement he now regards as duplicitous.

Since taking office in July 2016, Duterte freed some communist leaders and put leftists in his cabinet, to show his commitment to finding a permanent solution to a five-decade conflict.

But he abandoned the process in November, after what he called repeated attacks by the NPA during talks.

The petition said the rebels were "using acts of terror" to sow fear and panic to overthrow the government.

Duterte has been regularly venting his fury at the Maoists and considers them as much of a security threat as the domestic Islamist militant groups that have pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

By declaring groups and individuals terrorists, the government would be able to monitor them more closely, track finances and curb access to resources, among other measures.

But Carlos Conde, Philippines researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the petition was "a virtual hit list."

"There's a long history in the Philippines of the state security forces and pro-government militias assassinating people labeled as NPA members or supporters," he said in a statement.

'Baseless, malicious and irresponsible'

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, appointed in 2014 as U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, was listed on the petition as a senior member of the Maoist rebel group.

Tauli-Corpuz denounced the government, calling the complaint "baseless, malicious and irresponsible."

Zeid defended the independence, impartiality and expertise of special rapporteurs in the face of smear and hate campaigns, some involving incitement to violence.

"Instead of attacking the messenger, states and other stakeholders should engage and address the human rights concerns raised by mandate-holders,” he said.

Also on the list were four former Catholic priests and former congressman Satur Ocampo, who told Reuters he would challenge any "terrorist" label.

The petition included 18 top leaders of the CPP, including founder Jose Maria Sison and peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni, both based in the Netherlands for three decades.

There was no basis for the charge of terrorism, said Sison, who was a mentor of Duterte when he was at university, although the two are now bitter rivals.

"Duterte is engaged in a wild anti-communist witchhunt under the guise of anti-terrorism," he said. "Duterte is truly the No. 1 terrorist in the Philippines."

Duterte's spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.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.