Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday lashed out at another UN human rights official for making critical remarks about his supposed role in the expulsion of Philippine Supreme Court chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, saying the official should “go to hell.”
Duterte dismissed the remarks of UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Diego Garcia-Sayan and told him not to meddle in domestic problems as he answered a reporter’s question before departing on a visit to South Korea.
“Tell him not to interfere with the affairs of my country. He can go to hell,” Duterte said at the late-night news conference, which was televised. “He is not a special person and I do not recognize his rapporteur title.”
The unprecedented ouster of Sereno after Duterte lambasted her in public is an attack on judicial independence that could put Philippine democracy at risk, Garcia-Sayan told reporters in Manila on Thursday.
Duterte has reacted with similar public outbursts in the past against other UN rapporteurs who raised alarm and sought an independent investigation into his bloody campaign against illegal drugs, which has left thousands of mostly poor drug suspects dead.
Sereno’s ouster has generated “a climate of intimidation” in the 15-member court and at other levels of the judiciary, Garcia-Sayan said in an interview.
There is no formal UN investigation into Sereno’s removal, but as the rapporteur who looks into threats to independence of judges and lawyers worldwide, he had to speak up when problems are reported anywhere in the world, he said.
“For a rapporteur of the UN on independence of justice to keep silent when a chief justice in any country in the world, even in my country, would be dismissed in such a way is impossible, and it will be immoral to stay silent,” said Garcia-Sayan, who has served as a judge and foreign minister of Peru.
He said he sent questions to the Philippine government about the circumstances leading to the May 11 ouster of Sereno, and expressed hope that the Duterte administration would reply within 60 days and agree to a dialogue on issues that could threaten the judiciary’s independence.
Sereno, 57, was expelled by an 8-to-6 vote on a petition filed by Philippine Solicitor General Jose Calida, who accused her of failing to file asset disclosures as a state university law professor years ago, a charge she denies.
She has appealed the ruling, citing a constitutional principle that top judiciary officials can only be removed by congressional impeachment.
A majority of the 23-member Philippine Senate, including some Duterte allies, has asked the Supreme Court to review its decision, calling it a “dangerous precedent” that infringed on the Philippine Congress’ power to impeach senior officials.
Philippine presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that Garcia-Sayan was misinformed.
While Duterte has been critical of Sereno for claiming that he plotted against her, the president had no hand in her expulsion, Roque said, adding that Duterte’s dislike of Sereno “is not an attack to the judiciary or an affront to judicial independence.”
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable
SURGE CONTINUES: India recorded its steepest spike of more than 57,000 new virus cases in 24 hours, as Vietnam went from no virus deaths to reporting three South Korean prosecutors yesterday arrested the elderly leader of a secretive religious sect as part of an investigation into allegations that the church hampered the government’s COVID-19 response after thousands of worshipers were infected in February and March. Prosecutors in the central city of Suwon have been questioning 88-year-old Lee Man-hee, chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, over charges that the church hid some members and underreported gatherings to avoid broader quarantines. The Suwon District Court granted prosecutors’ request to arrest Lee over concerns that he could temper with evidence. Lee and his church have steadfastly denied the accusations, saying they are