Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is not known for taking criticism of his government well and Sunday was no exception when he blasted a United Nations human rights expert who had warned about judicial integrity in the country. “Tell him not to interfere with the affairs of my country,” Duterte said when asked about the criticism by Diego García-Sayán, a U.N. special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. “He can go to hell.”
Duterte noted that García-Sayán “is not a special person” and the strongman president added that “I do not recognize his rapporteur title.” Duterte’s comments came days after García-Sayán raised alarm with reporters about the ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. The Philippine Supreme Court voted last month to oust Sereno from her post after Duterte had called her an “enemy” because she voted against several of the president’s proposals. García-Sayán said Sereno’s ouster sent a chilling message to other members of the judiciary about the dangers of going against Duterte’s wishes.
“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,” García-Sayán, a former justice and foreign minister of Peru, said. Duterte’s office has insisted that the president had nothing to do with Sereno’s ouster.
This isn’t the first time Duterte has told a foreign official to go to hell. In 2016, Duterte had the same wish for then-President Barack Obama. “Instead of helping us, the first to hit was the State Department. So you can go to hell, Mr Obama, you can go to hell,” Duterte said as he complained that rather than helping the Philippines tackle its drug problem the United States had chosen to criticize the high death toll.