MALACAñANG on Saturday downplayed the human rights watchdog Amnesty International report on the supposed violations of human rights in the Philippines, saying President Rodrigo Duterte was committed to protect the lives of innocent people from the effects of illegal drugs and assured everyone was guaranteed freedom of expression.
Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo insisted there were no state-sponsored killings in the country despite the accusation of international human rights group that the alleged thousands of unlawful killings by police and other armed individuals was part of the government’s anti-drugs campaign.
In a statement, Panelo said it was the firm stance of the President to protect the lives of innocent people from the dangerous effects of illegal drugs.
He also defended the drive against illegal drugs which he said resulted in the voluntary surrender of thousands of drug pushers and users to police authorities.
“The true cause of the extrajudicial killings is that members of the drug syndicates are killing each other to prevent their competitors from informing the authorities which may lead to their arrest,” Panelo said on the deaths of hundreds of suspected drug pushers and users in the country.
“As for those who were killed by the police, the same were made on the basis of self-defense when they employed unlawful means to resist arrest posing threat to the lives of the police officers,” the Malacañang official said.
On the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and to reintroduce the death penalty, Panelo said the AI had taken the issues out of context.
Panelo explained the President was only compelled to declare martial law and to extend the same to secure the safety of the people in Mindanao by crushing the rebellion and restore peace and order.
He said there was no proof of any abuse of authority by the military.
“We reiterate the President does not prohibit journalists and critics from speaking their views on the policies and programs of this administration. It is the spreading of false news that distorts the truth which must be scrutinized, not being protected by the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression,” Panelo said.
Contrary to AI’s Report, protests and demonstrations, whether for or against the polices of the administration, are prevalent now more than ever, showing that democracy is very much alive in the country, Panelo said.
“Needless to say, the right to freedom of expression should not be indiscriminately invoked when the executive branch is merely performing its duty in enforcing the law of our land,” he said.
The Philippines, an active member of the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, continues to provide a framework for human rights co-operation and consultation between Asean member states in advancing Asean’s aspiration to be a rules-based, people-oriented and people-centered community, he said.