MANILA - An opposition lawmaker on Tuesday slammed Malacañang for linking human rights groups with drug syndicates, saying this puts the lives of advocates in danger.
"'Yan talaga ang mangyayari diyan. Parang nilalagyan ng marka ang noo mo na 'you are a target dahil kasabwat ka,'" Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate told DZMM radio.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday said the Palace is not discounting the possibility that drug lords may be using human rights groups to destabilize the government.
Zarate believes the administration is trying to evade accountability in the war on drugs by making allegations against critics without evidence.
"Galing pa naman 'yan sa human rights community, nilalagay niya sa delikado ang mga kasamahan sa human rights. Nagtatapon ng statement na wala namang ebidensya," he said, referring to Roque.
International group Human Rights Watch (HRW) earlier slammed the Palace for its remarks.
"Are they trying to have death squads target human rights activists? Cayetano and Roque provide no evidence. They should withdraw their comments immediately," HRW said.
Following these reactions, Roque, a human rights lawyer, defended his earlier statement, hitting back HRW for "exaggerating" and "politicizing" the issue.
"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 Tuesday.
"Human Rights Watch should therefore not feel alluded to, exaggerate and politicize the issue to get some media mileage and public attention," he added.