Palace denies witch hunt against UN rapporteurs

THE inclusion of United Nations (UN) special rapporteur in the Department of Justice's (DOJ) list of alleged terrorists was not meant to punish members of the international organization, Malacañang said on Saturday, March 10.

Speaking to reporters in Iloilo, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. gave assurance that the DOJ's recommendation to declare UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples (IDPs) Victoria Tauili-Corpuz as a terrorist was "not a witch hunt against UN special rapporteurs."

He made the justification as the Philippine government has become critical of the UN for strongly opposing President Rodrigo Duterte's policies and programs including his staunch war on illegal drugs.

It could be recalled that Tauili-Corpuz called out the Duterte government in December 2017 for reported human rights violations in Mindanao amid the implementation of martial rule in the embattled region.

Roque said that the Duterte government adheres to the rule of law, thus will give Tauili-Corpuz the right to dispute allegations that she has links to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA).

He said the UN special rapporteur, who he ensured will be accorded the "right to be heard" and "inherent due process rights," may submit "controverting evidence" at the Regional Trial Court to prove her innocence.

"Unfortunately, perhaps, the UN special rapporteur for IDPs or indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauili-Corpuz, was also included because of intelligence information that she is somehow connected with the CPP-NPA," Roque said.

"The DOJ would have not filed a petition without evidence that she is a member of, or somehow affiliated with the CPP-NPA. And if she has evidence that it is not true, then she should present it in court," he added.

The DOJ, in its petition filed before the Manila Regional Trial Court, has accused Tauili-Corpuz as among more than 600 individuals who must be declared terrorists because of their supposed affiliation with the CPP-NPA.

UN experts have appealed to the Philippine government to drop the "unfounded" accusation against their colleague, Tauili-Corpuz. They have also expressed belief that the claim against the UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples was an "unacceptable attack" and an "act of retaliation by the Philippine government."

Tauili, in a statement on Thursday, March 8, denounced her inclusion in the roster of suspected CPP-NPA members, and stressed that the allegation hurled against her was "baseless, malicious and irresponsible."

Roque said Tauili-Corpuz' inclusion should serve as a lesson to the UN to improve its "selection process."

"Instead, perhaps, the UN rapporteur system should fine tune its selection process to ensure that individuals identified with terrorist groups are not given any mandate by the UN Human Rights Council," he said.

"I will assure you that this has nothing to do with her mandate... Let her adduce evidence that she is not," he added. (SunStar Philippines)

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