Democracy ‘deteriorating’ in PH, say rights groups
The continuing detention of Senator Leila de Lima and the increasing death toll of the government’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs prove democracy is “faltering” in the Philippines, human rights groups said Saturday.
“Philippines has always been the beacon and lighthouse for democracy for many, many years but things have changed since last year,” Wolfgang Heinze, director of Friedrich Naumann Foundation, said in a statement.
“There are a lot of worrying trends when we look at the number of killings, and also, when we look at media reports, it shows [the police dumping] bodies of [drug war victims] in Manila Bay,” he added.
The Philippines, Heinze said, used to be Southeast Asia’s flag-bearer of democracy for peacefully ending the 21-year rule of the late dictator, President Ferdinand Marcos, through the 1986 People Power Revolution.
Heinze said President Rodrigo Duterte’s “relentless attacks” against the press—especially against the Inquirer, ABS-CBN, and Rappler—also show democracy is “deteriorating” in the country.
“There seems to be difficulties in free expression of opinions in this country. There seems to be a pressure on journalists,” Heinze said.
Duterte earlier threatened the Rufino-Prieto families, owner of the Inquirer Group, to be sued for “economic sabotage” over the use of the Mile Long property in Makati City, and accused Rappler of being foreign-owned. He also warned that he will block ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal for not airing his paid political ad and not returning the money.
Rose Trajano of iDefend’s secretariat, said Filipinos are slowly losing their freedom of expression for fear of uttering words that might earn the President’s ire.
“This administration and the President are very good in messaging in terms of intentional distorting human rights concepts. Based on experience, no matter how much we convince families of drug war victims to fight, they are fearful in pursuing justice,” she said.
Trajano challenged human rights advocates like her to go beyond criticizing the Duterte administration and instead educate the public about the injustices happening in the country.
Emily Lau, former chair of the Hong Kong Democratic Party denounced the government’s disregard for the rule of law and condemned the unjust detention of De Lima. She also urged people to stop living in fear and start standing up for truth and liberty.
“I hope there are many politicians in the Philippines who can have the courage to speak up against the wrongdoings of this administration. We cannot be afraid of so many things because if we are constantly afraid, we’ll achieve nothing,” Lau said. IDL
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