By Genalyn Kabiling
“Inexpert” foreign groups should spare the Duterte administration the lecture on how to run the country, Malacañang said Friday in rejecting a United States-based organization’s allegation the country was in a war zone in disguise.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project’s report (ACLED) about the Philippines was “remarkable in ignorance and bias” as he disputed allegations the anti-drug crackdown was a state terror campaign targeting civilians.
According to Panelo, the foreign group apparently did not conduct any investigation into the country’s situation and merely relied on allegations by groups “hopelessly and blindly critical” of the administration.
“To ACLED we say, as we have repeatedly conveyed to other foreign human rights organizations, we do not need lectures from inexpert foreign groups on how to run a nation,” he said.
In the ACLED report, the Philippines was in “a war zone in disguise” amid the killings of over 1,000 civilians in 2018 due to Duterte’s lethal campaign against illegal drugs. The death toll was allegedly higher than the fatality count in conflict-stricken countries like Iraq, Somalia or Congo.
ACLED, a non-government organization that gathers and analyzes data on political violence and protest worldwide, also included the Philippines in the list of “deadliest countries for civilians” in 2018.
Panelo, however, disputed the ACLED’s fallacious findings about the country.
“Describing the war on drugs as a state terror campaign targeting innocent civilians as a government policy is pure hogwash. So is putting the Philippines in its list of the most dangerous places for civilians in 2018,” he said.
“The report stating that there is an alleged prevalence of state repression tagging the Philippines as a country where civilians are most at risk in 2018 is an infinitely fallacious finding,” he added.
He said it showed no proof of actual investigation in the country and instead made conclusions based on allegations made by the President’s critics such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as well as “partisan media outfits” such as Rappler, Philippine Daily Inquirer, New York Times and Reuters.
Panelo asserted that the Palace has repeatedly debunked allegations that the extrajudicial killings linked to the war on drugs were state-sponsored.
He argued that the anti-illegal drug campaign was “governed by strict police protocols that subject the police officers to accountability given the President’s zero tolerance for errant law enforcers.”
“Make no mistake about it, the Philippines is a dangerous country to drug manufacturers, dealers, addicts, criminals, terrorists, scoundrels, corrupt and abusive persons in authority,” he said.
He also maintained that impunity has no place under the administration, citing the conviction of Caloocan City policemen involved in the killing of Kian de los Santos.
Panelo likewise defended the vibrant democracy in the country, citing that the Philippine press remained one of the freest in the world.
“Political and media detractors continue to hound the President with their reckless and baseless accusations as well as intrigues, yet they are not hailed to court,” he added.
The case filed against Rappler was connected with tax evasion, a serious criminal offense in the country, and not related to the content of their reports, according to Panelo.
He said the case against Senator Leila de Lima was “criminal in nature” even as her allies continue to describe as a prisoner of conscience. “She remains incarcerated because the evidence in the drug-related charges filed against her is strong as determined by the court trying her hence she is unqualified for bail,” he said.
Panelo also highlighted the recent surveys showing the President’s sustained popularity.
“The surveys have consistently showed that Filipinos continue to see a trustworthy leader in President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and his continued popularity dispels all these allegations. Our people recognize, feel and embrace the visible change happening in our land,” he said.