Palace asks Amnesty International to 'sit down with government' to discuss rights issues

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 29 2022 07:25 PM

Multi-sectoral groups hold a protest  ABS-CBN News/file
Multi-sectoral groups hold a protest to commemorate International Human Rights Day at the University Acenue in University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City on December 9, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA— Malacañang asked representatives of Amnesty International (AI) on Tuesday to "sit down with government" and discuss rights issues and their concerns, after the group released a scathing report on unabated "unlawful killings" under the Duterte administration. 

The "lack of accountability" among government officials supposedly facilitated rights violations even during President Rodrigo Duterte's last year in power, the non-government organization's State of the World's Human Rights Report 2021-2022 read.

Amnesty International though, noted the justice department's review of 52 drug war cases even if "the review was woefully inadequate and failed to meet international standards." 

"Its limited findings contradicted police claims that lethal force had been justified, and confirmed violations documented by local and international human rights groups," according to the report. 

But acting Palace spokesman Martin Andanar said the international group failed to vet the information it used, describing it as "cut-and-paste collection of recycled issues" hurled by critics against government.

"In keeping with our commitment to remain open to multi-stakeholder engagements, we ask AI to sit down with government to clarify whatever concerns them, valid issues or otherwise," said Andanar.

"AI’s reports are never vetted with the Philippine government if only to authenticate their information. The absence of such vetting relegates AI’s report to a mere false rehash," he added. 

"That especially includes its false narratives on the current government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign and issues surrounding Maria Ressa and Senator Leila de Lima, all of which have been previously answered."

The Amnesty International also raised concerns on the death of 9 activists in Calabarzon, and how "attacks persisted against Indigenous peoples and Indigenous peoples’ rights activists."

The group cited Windel Bolinget's case, who was charged with murder over the death of indigenous leader Garito Tiklonay Malibato in Kapalong, Davao del Norte. 

The case was dismissed in July last year.

"The linking of organizations and individuals to communist groups by the authorities, known as 'red-tagging', led to killings and harassment of human rights defenders, political activists and others," said Amnesty International.

Despite these, Andanar claimed that the country's election in the United Nations Human Rights Council for a fifth term is an affirmation for the government's "faithful adherence to promoting, protecting, and fulfilling the human rights of the Filipino people." 

The International Criminal Court in September last year authorized a full inquiry into Duterte's war on drugs. 

The probe was suspended in November 2021 as the court assessed "the scope and effect of the deferral request" of the Philippine government. 

COVID WOES 

Amnesty International also lamented the continued strict lockdowns last year, as well as the "inadequate access to health care" as COVID-19 infections rose. 

The Philippines battled a surge in infections last year brought by COVID-19 variants. 

Andanar asks the group to fact-check first, as some of their claims were supposedly "far from truth."

"AI even referred government’s COVID-19 response as 'mishandling,' which is far from the truth as all regions in the Philippines are presently at minimal risk case classification," he said. 

The country ranked last in Bloomberg's previous COVID-19 Resilience Index based on how effectively a government is handling the virus. Bloomberg assessed 53 countries.

In Bloomberg's February Index, the country placed 50th in the ranking. 

Philippines recorded less than 500 daily COVID-19 cases in the past 7 days, monitoring by the ABS-CBN Data Analytics team showed.

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