MANILA- Malacañang on Wednesday called international rights watchdog Global Witness a source of lies after the group published a report on the sharp increase of murders of environmental activists and land defenders in the Philippines under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The group has “falsely and unfairly” pinned on the President the blame for the death of 113 land defenders since Duterte became president in mid-2016, his spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
“The Palace considers the UK-based group Global Witness as a purveyor of falsity and a subservient machinery for political propaganda,” Panelo said.
“There is nothing new to its sham assertion which mimics the recurring chants of the usual derogators of PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte).”
Global Witness, in its latest report, alleged that President Duterte’s speeches and policies have "emboldened" killers.
In July, the group said 30 killings in the Philippines last year made it the deadliest country in the world for land defenders -- a first since the group began reporting such deaths in 2012.
“Global Witness has once again made it appear that it is the Duterte Administration which is the raison d'etre (most important reason) for the situation befalling these land and environmental defenders,” Panelo said.
The Duterte spokesman claimed that the group’s recent report is a “mere rehash” of a previous statement and instead blamed communist insurgents over deaths of land defenders, saying the rebels wanted to “control” such areas.
“Its original manifesto did not accomplish its mission of tainting the integrity of this Administration, thus the shameful resort to repetition. This is not news,” he said.
The insurgency problem, according to Panelo, prompted the President to implement measures “to maintain peace and order in the affected localities.”
“Blaming a government with baseless conjectures for a domestic problem which it seeks to resolve flies in the face of impartial observation and circumspection, and even causes a division among its people. In this case, it is worse as it is being committed by one who is a stranger to our country's internal affairs,” he said.
- with a report from Agence France-Presse