ANOTHER UN special rapporteur was on the receiving end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s verbal attack against critics of his administration as he told the official to “go to hell” for saying that the Philippines’ judicial independence was “under threat.”
In a press conference late Saturday night before leaving for South Korea for an official visit, Duterte was asked to comment on Diego Garcia-Sayan’s statement.
Duterte said Sayan was “not a special person.”
“And I do not recognize his rapporteur title. Tell him not to interfere with the affairs of my country. He can go to hell,” said the President.
“Son of a b—h, he is meddling. That’s an internal problem of the country. You should not meddle with it. You know why I exploded,” Duterte said.
Duterte also admitted that he was angered by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s accusation that he was behind her ouster.
In his statement on Friday, Sayan said the numerous derogatory tirades of Duterte against Sereno was evidence of a threatened judicial independence.
“The derogatory statements and threats by President Duterte, which have been televised, broadcast on radio, and carried by newspapers, constitute a vicious attack on the independence of the judiciary,” Sayán said.
“Not only do they constitute direct intimidation of the Chief Justice; they also appear to have had have a ‘chilling effect’ on other Supreme Court justices, who may have been deterred from asserting their judicial independence and exercising their freedom of expression,” Sayan said.
In a press conference in Davao City in April, Duterte called Sereno his “enemy” and “bad for the Philippines” after she insisted that he was behind the ouster plot.
Duterte also called on the House of Representatives, which at that time was conducting impeachment proceedings against the Chief Magistrate, to fast track the process.
Lawyer Larry Gadon accused Sereno of 11 acts of culpable violation of the Constitution, nine acts of betrayal of public trust, four acts of other high crimes and three acts of corruption.
But it was Solicitor General Jose Calida’s quo warranto petition filed before the Supreme Court, which questioned the validity of Sereno’s appointment in 2012, which hastened her removal from office.
The petition stemmed from Sereno’s failure to submit the required number copies of her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth when she applied for the position of Chief Justice.
On May 11, Sereno was ousted from her post in a vote of 8-6.
Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin, Teresita de Castro, Francis Jardeleza, Diosdado Peralta, Noel Tijam, Alexander Gesmundo, Andres Reyes, Jr. and Samuel Martires voted in favor of the petition while Antonio Carpio, Mariano del Castillo, Benjamin Caguioa, Marvic Leonen, Estela Bernabe and Presbitero Velasco, Jr., dissented.
Sereno inhibited from voting.
In his pre-departure speech on Saturday, Duterte denied anew his hand in Sereno’s ouster, saying it was all on Calida.
Duterte said that Calida filed the quo warranto petition against Sereno because he was “hurt” by Sereno’s vote to deny the burial of former strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) in November 2016.
“You know, Calida, he [filed the quo warranto petition]as an Ilocano. He is a lawyer. He pushed for [Marcos] to be buried there,” Duterte said.
“Me, I was just following the law. [Marcos is] a soldier and a President. And they were criticizing me left and right. I told them, but that’s the law. What can I do?” Duterte added.
According to Article 11, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution, or the “The President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust. All other public officers and employees may be removed from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment.”
Sayan, a Peruvian, was not the first UN special rapporteur to incur the wrath of Duterte.
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, was categorized as a “rebel” by the Philippine government for allegedly using “acts of terror” to undermine the government after she criticized the attacks on and killings of the Lumad people in the Philippines.
Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on summary killings, incurred the ire of the President after she lambasted his campaign against illegal drugs, saying it has spawned extrajudicial killings that violated human rights. RALPH EDWIN U. VILLANUEVA
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