Palace tells UN body: Freedom of expression not absolute

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 04 2020 05:49 PM

MANILA- Freedom of expression is not absolute, Malacañang said Thursday after the United Nations human rights office flagged alleged violations of basic rights in the Philippines despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, in its report, called attention to supposed efforts to vilify dissent in the Philippines. It said that while there are thousands of rights advocates in the Philippines, they have been subjected to attacks, with some groups being associated with communists or terrorists.

"Freedom of expression is not absolute; it is subject to derogation," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, a human rights lawyer, said in a Palace press briefing.

He cited the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which has a provision that penalizes persons spreading false information "geared to promote chaos, panic, anarchy, fear, or confusion" while the country is in a public health crisis.

Despite this provision, Roque said the justice system in the country works with many of the cases against those accused of spreading of false information dismissed.

"Ang magandang balita naman po ay gumagana po ang ating institutions, lalung-lalo na ang ating hukuman," he said.

(Our institutions are working, especially the courts.)

"At marami po sa mga nakasuhan ay dinismiss [dismissed] naman po ng ating piskalya pa lamang ang mga kasong ito. So the system works po," he added.

(Many of the charges were dismissed by prosecutors. So the system works.)