Rodrigo Duterte is not a man known to mince words or to shelter his true beliefs behind flowery language, a reputation maintained most recently when he made remarks to the press surrounding his removal of chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, according to Bloomberg.
Widely criticized by the global community, as have most of his political moves, Duterte’s recent decision to force expulsion via a vote on a petition filed by government Solicitor General Jose Calida is the instigating event of the recent firestorm. The vote, which proceeded in favor of an 8-6 tally, accused chief justice Sereno of failing to file asset disclosures during her tenure as a state university law professor in the past. Sereno disputed the charges.
The move, panned publicly by United Nations human rights expert Diego Garcia-Sayan, as reported by Reuters, brought the ire and rhetorical retribution of President Duterte during a press conference this past weekend. Duterte dismissed the veracity of Garcia-Sayan’s claims and further told him to mind his own business in typical fashion for the populist politician.
“Tell him not to interfere with the affairs of my country. He can go to hell,” Duterte said in an after-hours scrum with the media, “He is not a special person and I do not recognize his rapporteur title.”
The Thursday previous to Duterte’s tirade, Garcia-Sayan had told a group of reporters in Manila that he believed the ouster organized by Duterte was extrajudicial and likely illegal. Beyond that, such a power-hungry move by Duterte is a pattern of behavior that may put the nature of democracy in the Philippines at risk. The accusations almost certainly rattled and angered the President of the Philippines, resulting in Sunday’s backlash.
Garcia-Sayan added that there would be no formal investigation by the United Nations into the firing, although he did send a list of questions to the Duterte administration with a two-month deadline on their fulfillment, hoping that his opponent would see reason. The U.N. specialist on human rights and judicial overwatch added the following in a statement.
“For a rapporteur of the U.N. 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 way is impossible, and it will be immoral to stay silent.”
President Rodrigo Duterte has been the subject of much international scrutiny not only for his belligerent comments but also for his vicious handling of the addictions and drug trade in his nation. He has squared off against other media critics who have lambasted the President for his heavy-handed approach to drug crime. Duterte has waged a bloody war against alleged drug suspects for traffick and possession of narcotics, leaving thousands dead without seeing a formal trial.
Though protests against Duterte and his regime continue regularly, as Aljazeera reports, taking to the streets and to the pages of newspapers both inside of the national borders and from the global media, the President of the Philippines shows no sign of resigning his iron grip on the levers of power any time in the near future. Beloved by his hardline supporters and detested by dissidents, the controversial world leader has made an indelible mark on history and seems poised to continue his battle to institute his ideology, come what may.