ANDANAR tells human rights watchdogs to uphold the highest level of integrity and credibility to maintain their relevance
The Duterte administration has prioritized human rights and dignity of all Filipinos in the time of the pandemic, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said Wednesday, denying a report which claimed that killings in the country worsened during… Read More
MANILA – Malacañang disagreed with the Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) statement that the newly formed inter-agency panel that would investigate more than 5,600 deaths in the administration’s war on drugs is “a ruse to shield the country from international… Read More
MANILA – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday urged outspoken critics of the administration’s war on drugs to hold their fire and reserve judgment on the inter-agency review panel that is evaluating the government’s anti-drug operations.”It will be for everyone’s good to allow… Read More
MANILA – Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar on Thursday urged human rights watchdogs, including the United Nations (UN), to acknowledge the need for due diligence in validating allegations presented to them.“Establishing the facts behind these… Read More
HRW WORLD REPORT 2020: Duterte’s anti-drug campaign remains as brutal as when it started
The Philippine government’s murderous “war on drugs” remained the Philippines’ gravest human rights concern in 2019, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2020. Security forces were also implicated in often deadly attacks on activists.
“President Duterte’s anti-drug campaign remains as brutal as when it started, with drug suspects being killed regularly across the country,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “Four years into the ‘drug war,’ the need for international mechanisms to provide accountability is as great as ever.”
In the 652-page World Report 2020, its 30th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth says that the Chinese government, which depends on repression to stay in power, is carrying out the most intense attack on the global human rights system in decades. He finds that Beijing’s actions both encourage and gain support from autocratic populists around the globe, while Chinese authorities use their economic clout to deter criticism from other governments. It is urgent to resist this assault, which threatens decades of progress on human rights and our future.
Duterte’s appointment in November of Vice President Leni Robredo as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee Against Drugs (ICAD) raised hopes that drug campaign violence would be tempered. But Duterte fired Robredo, an opponent of the anti-drug campaign, just days later.
In July, the Philippine National Police reported that its forces had killed more than 5,500 people during drug raids. Local rights groups as well as the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights contend that the number could be more than 27,000. Except for three police officers involved in a highly publicized killing in August 2017, no one has been convicted in any “drug war” killings. Duterte continued to defend the drug war and promised to protect law enforcement officers who killed drug suspects in these raids.
In December 2019, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency reported that its forces had killed 5,552 people during drug raids from July 1, 2016 to November 30, 2019. The International Criminal Court (ICC) had yet to conclude its preliminary examination into “drug war” killings, which it began in February 2018. A UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution on the Philippines adopted in July 2019 directs the UN human rights office to issue a report in June 2020.
There was an upsurge in 2019 in often deadly attacks against left-wing activists, including peasant leaders, environmentalists, tribal leaders, and religious figures who were deemed to be linked to the communist New People’s Army (NPA). Violence was particularly high on the island of Negros, where alleged state security forces killed peasants, their leaders, environmentalists, religious leaders, and their community supporters.
Left-wing, politically active groups faced police raids that resulted in arbitrary arrests and detention. Groups alleged that police planted weapons and other “evidence” to justify the raids and arrests. The government and military frequently labeled these groups and individuals as communist rebels or sympathizers, a practice commonly known as “red tagging.” Some journalists also faced similar political attacks.
As with the anti-drug campaign, the Duterte administration has done little to investigate and prosecute those responsible for politically motivated attacks against activists. Duterte has instead seemingly encouraged such attacks, for instance, in August calling on the military to “implement a more severe measure” against the insurgency.
“There are sadly no signs that President Duterte is going to end ‘drug war’ killings or act to stop attacks on activists,” Robertson said. “That makes it all the more important for international institutions like the International Criminal Court and the UN Human Rights Council to do what they can to hold Duterte and other senior officials to account for their abuses.”
President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night warned that he will slap a foreign human rights advocate if he enters the country to help Vice President Leni Robredo end the drug war.
“P******** Leni, sa harap mo sampalin ko ‘yan,” he said in a press briefing in Malacañang Palace.
“I dare you, kung talagang dedicated ka, papasukin mo dito ang p********** ‘yan. Pupuntahan kita sa opisina mo, sampalin ko ‘yan sa harap mo,” he added.
The President said he saw Phelim Kine’s Nov. 11 tweet to Robredo making a recommendation on arresting him and his supporters for allegedly instigating a “mass murder.”
“Dear VP @lenirobredo – my bags are packed and I’m ready to come to the #Philippines to help advise how to end this murderous “drug war,” the former deputy director for Asia of the New York-based Human Rights Watch wrote on Twitter.
“Meanwhile here is my Recommendation No. 1: Arrest #Duterte and his henchmen for inciting & instigating mass murder,” he added.
Philippines’ Duterte Confesses to ‘Drug War’ Slaughter
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte did something extraordinary this week: He confessed. During a speech on September 27, Duterte admitted culpability for extrajudicial killings: “What is my sin?
.@lenirobredo said she already met with government officials and is set to consult with United Nations officers on Monday on “researches and studies about best practices [and] lessons from other countries regarding the campaign against illegal drugs.” http://bit.ly/2CoNzaL
Kine, who is now a director of research and investigations at the Physicians for Human Rights, has been critical of the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs and alleged disregard for basic human rights.
The President said he was irked by Kine’s comments because he was “not being given the opportunity to be heard.”
“Of course, I tried answering, I tried to mga disclaimer, nobody is listening,” he said.
Robredo, however, earlier said her office had not sent or received any invitation or letter to or from Kine.
“Wala namang imbitasyon, walang sulat sa amin so mahirap mag-comment. Sa amin lang, lahat ng makakatulong welcome,” she said.
MAYOR Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at Human Rights Watch after the New York-based human rights group asked the Aquino administration to conduct a probe on his alleged involvement in extrajudicial killings in Davao City.
Duterte on Tuesday night, May 19, sent a very brief text message Davao City-based Newsdesk Asia to air his side.
He called the people running HRW “hypocrites.”
“What?!!!??!! US-based human rights wants me investigated?!” he said in the text message. “You are all hypocrites! You cannot even protect the human rights in your own country the American-Africans and other minorities, not to mention your inutility in dealing with the genocide going on in Africa and other countries.”
He also dared the group and other crime watchdogs to come to Davao and experience his brand of justice.
“To all the bleeding hearts of US-based crime watch: You want a taste of justice, my style? Come to Davao City Philippines, and do drugs in my city. I will execute you in public,” he said.
HRW: 298 murders from 2007 to 2013 under former Mayor Rey Uy.
The mayor of Davao del Norte’s capital city of Tagum has confirmed the existence of the Tagum Death Squad whose gunmen were under the payroll of the Tagum City local government, who used government-issued guns to kill their victims.
I confirm the existence of the Tagum Death Squad, said Mayor Allan Rellon in a report in Davao City-based daily SunStar Davao.
Rellon said he has since reorganized the Civil Security Unit (CSU) and renamed it as Security Management Office (SMO) over reports he verified that some of the gunmen were employees of the local government assigned to the CSU.
A recent report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the Tagum Death Squad was organized by former mayor Rey Uy as part of the local government’s peace and order campaign.
HRW heaped blame on the death squad the series of extrajudicial killings in Tagum City during the term of Uy.
HRW in a 71-page report said it documented 298 extrajudicial killings that included minor victims carried out by the Tagum Death Squad from 2007 to 2013.
Uy was mayor from 2007 and ended his term in 2013. His son, city councilor Karlo ‘Oyo’ Uy, was defeated by Rellon in the 2013 elections.
Uy has dismissed the HRW report as‘politically-motivated’ culled from information provided by his political adversaries. Uy is reported as staging a comeback in the 2016 elections.
An alleged former member of the death squad starred in the HRW as spelling out the activities of the Tagum Death Squad and their link to the CSU during the term of Uy.
Rellon said he had personally talked with “Romnick,” the former member of the Tagum Death Squad who was mentioned in the HRW report, who confirmed to him that he was employed with the CSU.
The mayor said he had already weeded out the misfits in the CSU and replaced them degree-holders particularly criminology course graduates or those who went through application in the military or police force.
He also said he had confiscated from the dismissed CSU members, suspected as belonging to the death squad, the guns that were issued them by the local government.
In wake of the HRW report, the House of Representatives Committee on Human Rights has called in House Resolution No. 1222 an immediate investigation into the extrajudicial killings and the role of the Tagum Death Squad and Uy in the murders.
RODRIGO DUTERTE, the mayor of Mindanao’s Davao City, has a novel strategy to address the problem of rice smuggling: murder the suspected smugglers. At a public hearing of the Philippine senate this week, Duterte boasted that if a notorious suspected smuggler tried to do business in Davao, “I will gladly kill him.”
Duterte’s comments are no laughing matter. Davao’s long-time mayor has a track record of threatening alleged “hoodlums” with deadly violence. Not surprisingly, Duterte’s mayoralty coincided with the operation of “death squads” in the city that have killed hundreds of drug dealers, petty criminals and street children since 1998. In 2001-2002, Duterte would announce the names of “criminals” on local television and radio – and some of those he named would later become death squad victims. No one has been successfully prosecuted for any of these murders. In the meantime, the killings continue.
Duterte’s threat was appalling. But equally disturbing was the lack of condemnation by lawmakers. Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Food and Agriculture Committee, which held the hearing, expressed sympathy with Duterte’s approach to crime control. “In Mindanao, you have to be tough because if not, there will be several abuses,” Villar said. Senator Grace Poe expressed concern about how children might misconstrue Duterte’s threat, rather than its affront to rule of law.
This tolerance from lawmakers for Duterte speaks volumes about the failure of successive Philippine governments to address the country’s problem of extrajudicial killings. Such killings are down considerably from the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Nonetheless, 12 journalists were killed in 2013, bringing the total number of Filipino journalists and media workers killed to 26 since President Benigno Aquino III took office in June 2010. In only six of those 26 cases have police arrested suspects. Leftist activists, including environmental advocates, have been among those targeted. A much-vaunted initiative by the government to address impunity – the creation in 2012 of a so-called “superbody“ to expedite the investigation and prosecution of cases of extrajudicial killings – remained largely inactive in 2013 even as new cases were reported by domestic human rights groups.
Duterte is the embodiment of impunity in the Philippines. Legislators who ignore or, worse, seek to justify his abusive tactics not only insult the victims of such killings and their families, but also undermine efforts to bring them to an end.
As Philippine elections go, mudslinging is expected to be the order of the day when candidates go at each other’s throat when campaigning heats up for the May 2013 election. Charges of libel or threats of being hailed to court are political realities that media must have to face as they report on politicians in a mission to educate the public on who are the deserving candidates they should vote lead government for the next three years. Media’s woes over penalties in the Penal Code has doubled with fines and penalties enshrined in the new Cybercrime Act, which, , among other crimes committed through the information highway, protects persons against libel in cyberspace. The Cybercrime Act is meeting a storm of protest not only from journalists but as well as human rights groups and advocates of press freedom. The Supreme Court has issued a Temporary restraining order against the implementation of the law, but media’s woes about it curtailing their freedom and exposing them to more windows for libel charges, should not stop there. The High Court ruling is temporary and we predict the law to be set into motion soon. With the Penal Code and the Cybercrime Act coming as a double-edged threat to media, journalists may as well reassess their situation and should be more careful about their reports in relation to the coming polls. Name-calling to shame candidates are common in elections and a journalist could face libel charges if you call Davao City First District congressman Karlo Nograles as Karla Nograles or former Davao City vice mayor Luis Bonguyan as “Louie Pait-pait.” In the hands of a brilliant lawyer, these types of name-calling could land one in jail. The honorable Nograles could file charges for criminal act in violation of the Cybercrime Act, if the scurillous remark is published online, and the Penal Code if the dirty piece meets requirements of libel. Karlo could also seek comfort from the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance of Davao City authored by no less than Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, which protects anybody from being verbally or physically assaulted and discriminated against by virtue of creed, race and sex. Bonguyan. who is facing off with Karlo in the First District congressional race, on the other hand, could sue you for calling him “pait-pait,” a Cebuano lingo for stingy. Because Louie is not stingy. I still have the charcoal flatiron and a presure cooker that Louie gifted to me in previous Xmases. I could stand as a witness for Louie that he is not a Mr. Scrooge. So there. Never, never call Karlo Nograles as Karla Nograles or Louie Bonguyan as Louie Pait-pait if you don’t want to be sued. While we are on the subject of libel, allow us what the Philipine Star said in its editorial about the Cybercrime Act: No law can be passed that curtails rights guaranteed by the Constitution. That’s the argument given by government officials who are urging the public to give the Cybercrime Prevention Act a chance to work. Whether the argument is valid is now up to the Supreme Court to decide, as the tribunal tackles petitions challenging the constitutionality of Republic Act 10175. The positive objectives of RA 10175 – going after terrorists and purveyors of pornography, for example – have been overshadowed by the inclusion of online libel as a new criminal offense whose penalty is a degree higher than libel committed through traditional media as defined under the Revised Penal Code. Human rights advocates have also raised concern over provisions, some of them vaguely worded, which give the government broad powers to monitor and block access to online data and social media. If the SC declares the new law or portions of it unconstitutional, it will not speak well of the legislative process. The provision on libel was reportedly a last-minute “insertion” by the bête noir of the online community, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto. Some senators are claiming they did not bother to read the insertion. This is a troubling admission of a cavalier attitude in crafting legislation. It gives an indication of why too many laws in this country cannot be properly enforced. Legislation does not come free; public funds are needed for the upkeep of the two chambers. Time is also precious; many urgent matters call for legislation. For the multimillion-peso pork barrel allocations and fat commissions legislators enjoy, they must at least be able to churn out laws that do not require amendment as soon as these come into force.
Standing for our rights
We owe it to the people who have stood up for their rights, for being defiant, not backing down to such machinations of authorities to wrest away from the people whatever is left of their hard-won freedoms. Once again, the powers that be are gagging our fundamental freedoms of speech, expression and the press this time with the Cybercrime Prevention Act. Even with the protests and petitions to the Supreme Court from netizens, journalists and civil society against this Act, the Aquino administration insists that this Act will pursue online criminal acts and not attack our freedom. But the problem with such argument is that it insists on a law that essentially would tend to give liberty for the powerful to tag the freedom of citizens speaking out their opinions and views online as a criminal act. It basically says that people who post online criticisms on public officials or on institutions and anyone who agree on such comments will face the consequences. The consequences in this case are a libel suit, a jail term, and having one’s website or online accounts pulled down by authorities. The Cybercrime Prevention Act thus prevents people from speaking out. The essence of democracy is having citizens speak out their views on political and social issues. With that, the people have taken to new media, the Internet, as a venue to address basic problems and realities. This is seen this with recent online criticisms on the Aquino administration’s failure and branding such as “Noynoying”. Such criticism is not a personal attack, but reflects the people’s frustrations of inaction amidst spiraling prices, unemployment, floods, plunder of our natural resources and more. But with the Cybercrime Act, those in power can silence their critics by slapping them with online libel. Just like politicians using libel against journalists, they can and will use this Act to attack citizens. It shows that Aquino is now the bully as he defies his boss, the people. Thus, the right to express our criticisms becomes vital more than ever. Media, traditional and new ones, serve as the outline of the peoples’ assertion of their rights. As the Supreme Court sits en banc today, we demand that our petitions are heard; we assert that no law should be made to stifle such freedom.
FROM THE MAILS
Commending the High Court
We commend the Philippines Supreme Court for issuing a temporary restraining order against the Cybercrime Prevention Act. The court should now go further by striking down this seriously flawed law. Congress, if it still wants to have a law governing online activity, should ensure that such a law will not infringe on civil liberties, human rights, the Constitution and the Philippines’s obligations under international law. All provisions in Philippine law that allow for imprisonment for peaceful expression should be repealed. Congress should also ensure that any discussion on proposed laws be done in a transparent manner. BRAD ADAMS, Asia Director, Human Rights Watch
Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said international human rights bodies are being unfair in zeroing in on his alleged violations while closing their eyes on that of the American government and other countries where human rights violations and killings are rampant. Duterte said he is being put to task for the drug-related killings in Davao City while the issue of the American government involvement in drug-related killings in Mexico is thrown to the backburner. He said the Mexican executions are handiwork of the US government in a bid to stop flow of drugs to the mainland from Mexico that is the major source of drugs in the US. To his mind, Duterte said guns used in the killings were supplied by the US government. To be true to their mission as protectors of human rights, Duterte challenged the human rights groups to widen their vision. They can start with Syria and Afghanistan where people are being blown to pieces, he said. In lashing at the human rights groups, Duterte was specifically refering to the New York-based United Nations Human Right Council (UNHRC) and the Asia bureau of the Human Rights Watch (HRW). Duterte made the charge while guesting in a recent edition of the Give Us This Day television program on ACQ Television, hosted by Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy of the Davao City-based religious congregation Kingdom of Jesus Christ The Name Above Every Name. A year ahead of the 2010 elections, Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, gave his annual presentation to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council. In his report, Alston partly focused on extrajudicial killings in Davao City allegedly carried out by the Davao Death Squad that is being tolerated by Duterte. At about the same time, HRW released a paper entitled “You can die anytime” which detailed the summary executions alleged to have been with the knowledge of Duterte. The Alston report and the HRW paper drew wide international attention on summary killings in Davao City and Duterte. The Alston report and the HRW paper came as the Philippine Commission on Human Rights chaired by Leila de Lima now the Justice Secretary was conducting a probe on Davao City killings that the rights body said was being encouraged by Duterte, then the sitting city mayor. Duterte had disowned any hand in the killings and described the CHR probe as politically motivated and the handiwork of then House Speaker Prospero Nograles, who was running for mayor in the 2010 elections against his daughter, Sara, now the sitting mayor. The CHR probe followed a visit by then President Gloria Arroyo to the US that Nograles joined. While in the US, Nograles asked the UN rights body to conduct a probe on the Davao City killings. In the ACQ television program, Duterte also twitted the human rights bodies for not giving a hoot to summary executions in Thailand when Thaksin Shinawatra was the prime minister, where more than 8,000 people were killed in a government-sponsored anti-drug campaign. In the 2003 Shinawatra anti-drug campaign, local police compiled lists of known or suspected drug dealers and sent the lists to the police headquarters to be combined for ‘central coordination.” Thousands of drug pushers and users were reportedly killed during the campaiign. Duterte said he never heard about human rights groups or media howling over the Mexico or Thailand killings. There are also a lot of killings in the Philippines but they zeroed in on me, he said in the program. He said killing of drug pushers has become universal that could not be stopped until drug is eliminated. He frowned on the human rights groups, he called them “bleeding hearts,” who, he said, can never understand why drug pushers are being killed in summary executions without due process in violation of human rights. “The hman rights people can never understand the eternal clash between protecting individual rights—and the rights of the community to be protected, he said in a statement that came closer to admission that human rights may be disregarded if the intent is to protect the community. It is good to protect human rights but the community has the survival instinct to protect itself from criminals, he said. We can argue forever with the bleeding hearts over whether extrajudicial killings are wrong or not, but that is the reality, Duterte said. The human rights people have their mandate, I have mine, he said. Human rights groups say more than a thousand people have been killed by the Davao Death Squad under a state-sponsored anti-drug campaign in Davao City.
New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch on Friday urged the Philippine government to “repeal or replace” the Cybercrime Prevention Act, saying it violates the Constitution as well as international conventions.
Brad Adams, Asia director for HRW, said the law “violates Filipinos’ rights to free expression and it is wholly incompatible with the Philippine government’s obligations under international law.”
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Philippines has been a partner since 1986, ensures “the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
But Adams said the provisions in the Cybercrime Act that raise the penalty for libel and give the government the power to shut down websites and collect computer data without warrants endanger free speech. “Anybody using popular social networks or who publishes online is now at risk of a long prison term should a reader–including government officials–bring a libel charge,” Adams said.
“So long as it stands, the new cybercrime law will have a chilling effect over the entire Philippine online community,” he also said. Even before the Cybercrime law was passed this month, the UN Human Rights Committee had already called on the Philippines to decriminalize libel.
“Allegedly libelous speech, online or offline, should be handled as a private civil matter, not a crime,” Adams said.
Senator Edgardo Angara, author of the law at the Senate, said on September 21 that it will keep the Internet from being “a wild frontier where no due process is afforded to victims of legitimate Internet-related crimes.”
“We have to give the law a chance and see how it will be implemented. Only then will the loopholes and the gaps be identified and properly addressed. But as it is, I believe this law is a milestone for ICT in the country,” he said.
Despite this, two of Angara’s colleagues have already taken steps to amend the bill. Senator Francis Escudero, who has been pushing to decriminalize libel, said he wants the provision on libel changed.
“I’ll take out the criminal liability but the civil liability provision will be intact, meaning no jail penalty,” he said.
Senator Teofisto Guingona III, who voted against passage of the bill, has petitioned the Supreme Court to void the provisions of the Cybercrime Act that he said exposed individuals to double jeopardy, are vague, and would stifle freedom of speech.
“The last time I checked, we were still a democracy. We want empowered citizens, not scared and passive ones,” he said.
Five petitions—including one filed by journalists and bloggers—have been filed at the SC asking it to review and void portions of the Cybercrime Act.