MANILA, Philippines – Human rights group Karapatan on Tuesday denounced the statements of top-ranking government officials accusing some human rights groups of being in cahoots with drug lords, saying these are attempts to justify attacks against human rights activists and political dissenters.
“We’d never know what they’re having in Malacañang, that they never seem to run out of fantastic tales and labels,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a statement.
Palabay lamented how the Duterte administration has been branding human rights activists as “rebels, rowdy anti-development strikers, terrorists, destabilizers and now minions of drug lords.”
These moves, she said, are “all meant to justify the extrajudicial killings, torture and illegal arrest of human rights activists and political dissenters.”
“They invent the most ludicrous of stories. You’re a suspected drug addict or pusher, then shooting you, even if you plead innocence, is an act of self-defense by the police. Guns and bombs suddenly appear in activists’ handbags or pile of rice and then boom! You’re charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives,” Palabay said.
“Your name appears in a military intelligence report, then voila! You are named as a terrorist. You speak at a forum outside the country, then presto! You’re suddenly a drug trafficker,” she added.
The progressive leader also pointed out that Malacañang was trying to put the blame on human rights organizations for the Duterte administration’s failure to curb the illegal drug problem.
“In case Harry Roque and Alan Cayetano haven’t noticed, Duterte did that all by himself, in a path of tyrannical megalomania and unparalleled self-destruction,” Palabay stressed.
In a news conference last week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano accused unnamed nongovernment organizations (NGOs) of being “unwittingly used by drug lords” to discredit the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs.
On Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque also linked human rights organizations advocates with drug syndicates to allegedly destabilize the Duterte administration.
Following these remarks by Cayetano and Roque, Brad Adams, director of New York-based Human Rights Watch Asia, dared the two officials to withdraw their statements as it could “imperil the lives of human rights advocates.”
“The statements by Philippines foreign secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and President Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque that drug lords may be using human rights groups to criticize and undermine the government are shockingly dangerous and shameful,” Adams said in a statement on Monday.
But Roque insisted that they stand by their statement.
“We stand by the statement we made on the possibility that some non-governmental organizations, instead of assisting the government fulfill its human rights obligations, have become unwitting tools of drug lords,” Roque said.
“Such scenario, we reiterate, should not be discounted given the billion-peso losses of the drug lords,” he added.
With these recent accusations, Palabay said Malacañang was “either cooking up a scenario that will justify a massive tokhang-style killing of activists” or attempting to “evade accountability from domestic and international human rights instruments.”
Either way, she said the moves of Duterte’s men would not be enough to “cover-up the his regime’s crimes against the people.” (davaotoday.com)