Gov’t slams US report on PH rights situation
MANILA, Philippines — The government on Saturday criticized a compilation of reports by the US State Department on the human rights situation worldwide, including an extensive entry on the Philippines.
Communications Secretary and acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar said the findings on the Philippines in the 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices “are nothing but a rehash of old and recycled issues by the perennial detractors of the Duterte administration.”
Washington “once again displayed how infirmed its intelligence gathering is,” Andanar said in a statement.
“We strongly suggest that the United States State Department validate reports that reach their office, triangulate the same with all other open and institutional sources, and put to work its political officers in the US embassy in the Philippines who can then properly verify the same with the Philippine government,” he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said: “Absent these data, the accusations are nothing but innuendos and [a] witch hunt. At worst, the State Department has become a gullible victim of black propaganda.”
He also said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was the most trusted and most approved government institution, citing a non-commissioned survey conducted by Publicus Asia.
“Surely [the AFP] did not earn this by abusing, torturing, and killing people,” Lorenzana said.
Brig. Gen. Roderick Augustus Alba, public information officer of the Philippine National Police (PNP), objected to the Internal Affairs Service (IAS) of the PNP being singled out as “largely ineffective” in checking police abuses.
He said the IAS “has taken an aggressive stance in handling and investigating police personnel who were meted with administrative charges.”
Alba further noted that the IAS had recommended sanctions on as many as 14,000 erring police officers and that 5,600 of them were eventually dismissed from the service.
“It will be unfair for the PNP to be regarded as an organization that tolerates impunity and human rights abuses,” he said.
The Country Reports were published on Tuesday by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the US State Department.
The report on the Philippines, excluding the appendices, is 54 pages long.
“There were credible [accounts] that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses,” the report said, particularly citing the AFP and the PNP.
It acknowledged that “The government investigated a limited number of reported human rights abuses, including abuses by its own forces, paramilitary forces, and insurgent and terrorist groups.”
But the report also said “Concerns about police impunity continued following the increase in killings by police in 2016. Significant concerns also persisted about impunity for other security forces, civilian national and local government officials, and powerful business and commercial figures.”
Among the human rights issues regarding the Philippines were extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and arbitrary detentions “by and on behalf of the government and nonstate actors,” as well as “serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence, threats of violence, and unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, censorship, and the use of criminal libel laws to punish journalists.”
The report also pointed out “serious problems with the independence of the judiciary,” “high-level and widespread government corruption” and “threats and violence against labor activists.”
“Slow judicial processes remained an obstacle to bringing government officials allegedly involved in human rights abuses to justice. Officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity,” it said.
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