Palace: Duterte can say whatever he wants, UN rights chief can’t

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Manila, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte can use any kind of language he wants but a United Nations official cannot do the same, Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque insisted that as an elected official, Duterte should be accorded respect.

This statement comes after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein suggested that the Philippine president needs to see a psychiatrist.

“There’s world of a difference between a UN official using crude language. Hence, 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 crude language is himself without a democratic mandate,” Roque said in a press briefing.

The UN high commissioner for human rights is appointed by the UN secretary-general, subject to approval by the UN General Assembly.

Roque said that UN officials, such as Al-Hussein, are expected to respect sitting heads of state.

“I think the matter of the statement made by the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights is being treated very seriously, it’s being treated as diplomatic affront, it’s wholly unacceptable,” he said.
Mayor Duterte curses at Pope; President Duterte rants against US President Obama
Asked about a past incident when Duterte called former US President Barack Obama a ‘son of a whore,’ Roque said “That’s a former president, not a sitting president.”

This incident, however, occurred in September 2016 while Obama was, in fact, president of the United States of America. Duterte’s remarks, as a matter of fact, led to the American leader cancelling a meeting with his Philippine counterpart during the ASEAN Summit in Laos.

It should also be recalled that Duterte, when he was still running for president, cursed at Pope Francis in November 2015. The leader of the Catholic Church is also head of state of Vatican City.

On the other hand, Al-Hussein’s remarks may have an effect on the Philippine government’s willingness to cooperate with a UN investigation on human rights violations in the country.

According to Roque, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano is now in communication with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres following the UN human rights commissioner’s statement against Duterte.

“Let’s just say that kind of a comment is not conducive to having further investigations to the Philippines of any special rapporteur but, as I said, the communications are ongoing. Let’s see what happens,” Roque said.

The Philippines has been sensitive to criticism and comments from the UN and from other countries in recent years.

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