MANILA - A human rights group on Tuesday said a Malacañang official's remark linking rights organizations to drug syndicates was dangerous and has put advocates' lives on the line.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said "lies and labels" such as what Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque had said on Monday "translate to numerous violations by Malacañang on the lives, security and safety of human rights activists in the country."
"We think that this is a very dangerous accusation of Malacañang officials that will ultimately result [in] us being killed as human rights defenders or as a way out [for] the administration of being put under investigation for its human rights abuses," she told ANC.
Roque, a human rights lawyer before joining government, said Malacañang is not discounting the possibility that rights advocates have become "unwitting tools" of drug lords in hindering the government's gains in its war against narcotics.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano also earlier said that some non-government organizations have been used by drug lords to discredit the government's campaign. Both he and Roque did not explicitly tag a particular group.
Earlier, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate slammed Roque's statement, saying it poses risks on the lives of human rights advocates.
In response to HRW, Roque stood by his statement saying: "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. Such scenario, we reiterate, should not be discounted given the billion-peso losses of the drug lords."
Nearly 4,000 drug suspects have been killed in presumed legitimate drug operations since Duterte assumed office in July 2016, according to government data.
Human rights groups, however, believe this number is understated as it does not include those killed by so-called vigilantes, some of whom were alleged to be state-sponsored.