(UPDATED) - The United Nations' human rights chief has suggested that President Rodrigo Duterte "needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric evaluation" over his "unacceptable" remarks about some top human rights defenders.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein demanded that the Human Rights Council, which counts the Philippines among its 47 member countries, "must take a strong position" on the issue and insisted "these attacks cannot go unanswered."
Speaking Friday,March 9, to reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, the rights chief alluded to a court petition filed last month by Duterte's government accusing the U.N. rapporteur on indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, and others of being members of a key communist rebel group.
Human Rights Watch says the allegations, which Tauli-Corpuz has denied, have put her and some 600 other people in danger.
Earlier, UN human rights experts expressed grave concerns about a list drawn up by the Department of Justice (DOJ) which identified over 600 individuals as communists who should be tagged as "terrorists."
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, denounced her inclusion in the list in a social media post. She described the move as "baseless, malicious and irresponsible."
"I am not connected at all in any way to these organizations nor do I have any knowledge, much
less participation, with the alleged incidents cited in the petition," Tauli-Corpuz stated.
Two other UN human rights experts described the inclusion of Tauli-Corpuz as "an unacceptable attack against the mandate holder by the Philippine government."
They called on the Philippines to "immediately drop these unfounded accusations against Ms. Tauli-Corpuz and to ensure her physical safety and that of others listed."
“We are shocked that the Special Rapporteur is being targeted because of her work defending the rights of indigenous peoples,” said Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Catalina Devandas Aguilar, chairperson of the Coordination Committee of the Special Procedures.
The list, which was submitted by the DOJ to the Manila Regional Trial Court in February as part of its petition seeking to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People's Army (NPA) as terrorist organizations, contained the names of alleged officers and members of the two organizations.
Others reportedly on the list are former House representative Satur Ocampo, Bayan Muna officer Vicente Ladlad and staff Brenda Biernes, Anakpawis partylist chairman Randall Echanis, former Selda officer Eliza Lubi, indigenous peoples' rights advocate Beverly Longid and lawyer Jose Molintas, according to Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate. (AP/SunStar Philippines)