Palace still open to probe despite UN High Commissioner's remarks vs Duterte

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 12) — The Palace  remains open to an investigation by the United Nations (UN) despite recent unflattering remarks by one of its high-ranking officials against President Rodrigo Duterte.

"We welcome special rapporteurs, provided they be impartial, neutral, and willing to investigate rather than those already having conclusions," Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing on Monday.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein last week said President Rodrigo Duterte should see a psychiatrist after the government asked a Manila court to declare  over 600 people as terrorists.

The list included Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a UN special rapporteur for indigenous people's rights.

Roque, who also serves as presidential adviser on human rights, called Al-Hussein's language an insult to Filipinos and an affront to the country's sovereignty.

"It's being treated as a diplomatic affront. It's wholly unacceptable, and until now, I'm restraining myself from using similar language," he said.

Roque said the remarks came at an inappropriate time, considering that talks on a possible investigation by the UN is being discussed by the Foreign Affairs Department and the UN Secretary General.

He added that UN officials should always treat state leaders with respect.

The presidential spokesperson also took a swipe at Al-Hussein, whose home country Jordan continues to fight for a democratic system of government.

"There's a world of difference between a UN official using crude language against 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 the crude language is himself without a democratic mandate," he pointed out.

Roque earlier said the administration is open to having a UN expert investigate the country's drug war, as long as Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard is out of the picture.  Duterte has repeatedly lashed out at Callamard for her being biased against his anti-drug campaign.

Local and international human rights groups have called on the government to allow the UN to look into the anti-drug campaign. Around 4,000 drug suspects were killed in police operations since the start of the bloody drug war in July 2016, government data show.

Critics said Duterte in his public pronouncements ordered or encouraged policemen to kill those involved in drug trafficking, resulting in thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings.

But Malacañang had repeatedly denied this, saying it would investigate policemen accused of violating the law and abusing their power.