No arbitrary arrest of gov’t critics, UN rights body’s claim unfounded – Andanar
MANILA, Philippines — Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on Friday debunked a claim that the Philippine government arbitrarily arrested critics of the Duterte administration’s response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Andanar was reacting to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s statement expressing alarm on several Asia-Pacific countries, including the Philippines, for tightening censorship rules amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Such accusations by the High Commissioner of arbitrary arrests being done by the government are unfounded and uncalled for,” Andanar said in a statement.
“All operations that the government has undertaken regarding this matter, are legal operations that are hinged on the respect for the rule of law and due process as provided by the country’s justice system,” added Andanar.
“Regardless of political or ideological positions, it is to be noted that we have undertaken such measures with transparency, impartiality and accountability; therefore, any arrests that were made were not targeted towards silencing the critics of this administration.”
Bachelet lamented the “arbitrary arrest” made under COVID-19 special powers legislation “which criminalizes alleged spread of “false information.”
The UN High Commissioner cited the artist from Cebu who was arrested for supposedly spreading false information on the surge of COVID-19 cases in a locality.
Bachelet also mentioned the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) which asked for the deportation of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Taiwan for her online posts critical of President Rodrigo Duterte.
While the government values freedom of expression, Andanar noted that misleading information should be dealt in accordance with the law.
“Such instances are not acts curtailing these freedoms, instead they are acts meant to undermine ill interests of promoting an anarchical and ignorant society,” he said.
Malacañang also earlier dispelled Bachelet’s claims that the Philippine government is using the pandemic to clamp down on freedoms.
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