MANILA -- A Malacañang official on Sunday dismissed allegations that the Duterte administration does not allow criticism.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella noted that the fact that the administration is not spared from criticism, “even of the harshest kind,” demonstrates a healthy democracy in the country.
“President Rodrigo Duterte has always allowed political dissent, contrary to the prevarications of some quarters,” Abella said in a statement.
“Even now, government programs have been launched by the Duterte administration precisely to encourage and facilitate free flow of communications and views between the public and the government,” he added.
The statement came following the release of the US State Department's annual Human Rights Report, which noted a "sharp increase" in police killings and police impunity in the Philippines since Duterte took office in July.
"Concerns about police impunity increased significantly as few administrative or criminal charges were filed against PNP officers following the sharp increase in police killings," the report read.
Abella said the US report is a confirmation of the fact that political dissent is allowed by the current administration.
“The Filipino people are free to express their views and grievances against the government, its policies and its officials, both in private exchanges and in public demonstrations,” he said.
Abella encouraged the public to defend the right to speak and air out grievances against the government.
“We advise the public to be vigilant in defending their right to free speech and express grievances against government. Cases of intimidation and threats of arrest or hostile retaliation from any official of government or enforcer of the law must be immediately reported to the authorities,” he said.