Stop propaganda, Rep. Castro tells VP Duterte
The word war between Vice President Sara Duterte and House Deputy Minority Leader Rep. France Castro continued to heat up after Duterte accused Castro of kidnapping and human trafficking charges.
Castro said she was “appalled but not surprised” that Duterte resorted to terrorist tagging and misinformation to discredit those questioning her confidential expenses for 2022.
“The Vice President is again making up stories and weaving the Red-tagger’s tale to baselessly label activists and ordinary citizens as terrorists,” the Makabayan lawmaker said on Wednesday.
In a statement, Castro debunked Duterte’s claim that she had pending charges of kidnapping and human trafficking in court. The Vice President made the claim at an event in Davao City last weekend.
“The made-up accusations of kidnapping and trafficking were dismissed by the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor (in Tagum City) in 2019. I was never charged with kidnapping and human trafficking,” the lawmaker said.
Castro said the pending case of child abuse is a “trumped-up charge” and that she is “in the process toward having it dismissed based on insufficiency of evidence.”
She was referring to the kidnapping, failure to return a minor and child abuse complaint filed against her, ex-Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, and 16 others following their arrest in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, in 2018.
They were aboard five vans and accompanied by 14 minors who were students of Salugpungan Learning Center, a Lumad school that was shut down by the Department of Education (DepEd) that year.
The 18 respondents were later released in December of that year after posting bail of P1.4 million. In January 2019, Castro and Ocampo sought the dismissal of the kidnapping and child trafficking raps.
Castro said the kidnapping and human trafficking charges were dismissed by the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor later that year.
“These are the facts. We hope that the Vice President checks them before speaking, and that she gives the public real explanations on the issues she is facing as Vice President and DepEd secretary,” she said.
She told Duterte to be “mindful of her restrictions as a lawyer under the sub judice rule.” Castro said the sub judice rule restrains the Vice President from “making prejudicial comments outside of court about a pending case.”
The Vice President should also respect the constitutional rights of the accused, such as the right to a fair trial and to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
“This is especially when her utterances are disinformation, aimed toward trial by publicity, terrorist labeling and muckraking—which she hurls at her critics in response to legitimate issues that she and her offices must answer,” Castro added.
Duterte, for her part, dared Castro and the Makabayan bloc, who have been leading the charge to scrutinize her office’s controversial funds, to release “concrete proof of my wrongdoing instead of going scorched-earth on me and my office.” “I’m just waiting. Give me something concrete that I did something wrong, and there’s nothing. But they keep attacking me in the hopes that the lie that they are peddling, that I did something wrong, would take stock in the minds of people,” Duterte said in a speech during the opening of a Peace Village in Davao City on Tuesday to mark National Peace Consciousness Day.
Her comments came two days after Duterte issued a “thank you” letter to President Marcos, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, and Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo, who have defended her office and its use of confidential funds last year despite the absence of a line item for it in the 2022 General Appropriations Act.
Critics have said this could be an impeachable offense and “yet I have been waiting every day—have they shown any paper trail, have they filed a case, anything to really show that the OVP (Office of the Vice President) did something wrong? Nothing,” the Vice President said. “It’s because they know we’re using the funds to find out their association with the [New People’s Army],” she added, referring to her allegations that ACT Teachers was one of many aboveground fronts for the Communist Party of the Philippines’ armed wing.
She also took a swipe at Castro for demanding to know why the DepEd, which the vice president also heads, fell 2.5 million short of its target number of enrollees this school year.