US senator hit for criticizing raids on offices of progressive groups
MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Communications chief Secretary Martin Andanar has slammed United States (US) Senator Bernie Sanders for “grandstanding” after the latter criticized the government’s alleged crackdown on progressive groups.
Andanar said Sunday that both Sanders and the International Trade Union Conference (ITUC) should not comment on the arrests of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan members a few weeks ago since they are not knowledgeable of the internal affairs of the Philippines.
“What we find abhorrent is that Senator Bernie Sanders and the International Trade Union Confederation refuse to closely look at the facts at hand, and instead choose to make blanket statements that the Philippine government supposedly violates human rights,” Andanar said in a statement.
“Senator Sanders is grandstanding on an issue he obviously does not know the details of, not to mention meddling in our national affairs, which he has no business over,” he added.
Sanders, a Democrat senator, said Friday on Twitter that repression of trade unionists is a “shameful attempt” to curtail freedom of expression.
“In recent years, we have seen abhorrent human rights abuses by the Philippine government. This repression of trade unionists is a shameful attempt to silence people’s rights and freedoms,” Sanders said in a tweet where he shared an ITUC article.
“More than ever, we must stand on the side of global human rights,” he added.
In recent years, we have seen abhorrent human rights abuses by the Philippine government. This repression of trade unionists is a shameful attempt to silence people's rights and freedoms. More than ever, we must stand on the side of global human rights. https://t.co/hJDrDJBX2y
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) November 15, 2019
ITUC has condemned the raids made by joint elements of the military and police on October 31, where 57 persons – including 10 minors – were arrested in the offices of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Negros Occidental.
The individuals were nabbed for allegedly taking part in firearms and explosive training, but the groups said the evidence recovered in the offices was merely planted.
Days after or on November 5, three more activists were arrested at the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan office in Tondo, Manila.
State forces have maintained that these progressive organizations are mere fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing New People’s Army.
However, Andanar insisted that the rights of the arrested persons were not infringed upon during the combined military and police operations.
“Firstly, the operations were peaceful and precise that no individuals were hurt. Authorities did not act rashly in any way and actually gathered actionable intel before conducting the raids in the offices of the organizations,” he explained.
“While there were several civilians captured, they were immediately released days after the operations. Hence, the supposed ‘government abuse’ that Sanders and ITUC claim is already false,” he added.
Andanar also defended the actions of the Duterte administration, who is seeking to end years of armed conflict between government forces and communist rebels. He also lauded the efforts of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
“Stringent measures were undertaken during operations as they are a matter of serious national security. These are steps we have to take in order to erode any probabilities of communist armed conflicts and in the long run attain peace and prosperity among Filipinos,” Andanar said.
“We urge all observers and critics to check their facts as some may fall victim to the lies peddled by communist terrorists — terrorists that have humanitarian organizations fronts who seek funding from other legitimate international institutions, only to be used for violence,” he added.
Edited by KGA
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.