MANILA—Malacañang on Saturday said the inclusion of a UN special rapporteur in the government's "terrorist" list is based on intelligence information and not part of a "witch hunt."
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, was among some 600 individuals that the Department of Justice wanted to declare as "terrorists."
"Victoria Tauli-Corpuz was also included because of intelligence information that she is somehow connected with the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army)," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing in Alimodian town, Iloilo.
"I assure everyone including the international community, that this is not a witch hunt on UN special rapporteurs," he added.
Roque then assured Tauli-Corpuz that the Philippines adheres to the rule of law and that she can dispute the "terrorist" tag.
"In any case, we are a civilized country in the Philippines; we will accord Miss Victoria Tauli-Corpuz the right to be heard, inherent due-process rights," he said.
"In our legal system, we adhere to the rule of law and hence, Miss Victoria Tauli-Corpuz can submit controverting evidence to what I am sure the DOJ already has linking her with the terrorist group – the CPP-NPA."
UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein had earlier said Corpuz believes she has been targeted because of comments she made regarding the alleged killings of indigenous people in the southern region of Mindanao, where President Rodrigo Duterte has imposed martial law in an effort to curb a jihadist threat.
"This is, of course, unacceptable for a special rapporteur acting on behalf of the international community whose expertise is sought by the Human Rights Council to be treated in this way," Zeid said.
The justice department last month announced it wanted a Manila court to declare the CPP and the NPA as "terrorist" organizations.