MALACAÑANG was elated Saturday, March 16, that the United States (US) Department of States issued an "objective and balance" report on the human rights situation in the Philippines.
"The level of objectivity and balance of the 44-page US State Department’s 2018 Human Rights Report on the Philippines reflects the US government’s appreciation of the Duterte administration’s governance agenda anchored on fighting corruption, criminality and illegal drugs," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
The Philippines 2018 Human Rights Report released by the US Department of State has touched on several issues concerning the Philippines, such as President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war, abuses in internal conflicts, and terrorism.
Panelo called on the public to read the whole report, as he alluded that Duterte's critics might focus on "negative observations" and use it for "political purposes."
"While the political opposition and detractors of the President, including some of those in the mainstream media, would dwell on what they consider as negative observations and milk the same for their political purposes, we prefer to see the glass half full and focus on the positive aspects of the report," he said.
"We urge the public to read the report in its entirety that they may not be deceived by intended negative and false commentaries," Panelo added.
Panelo bragged that the report made mention of the developments in the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign.
The report noted that "extrajudicial killings have been the chief human rights concern in the country for many years and after a sharp rise with the onset of the anti-drug campaign in 2016, they continued in the reporting year, albeit at a lower level."
The report also stressed that civilian control over the Philippine National Police (PNP) "continued to improve but was not fully effective."
Panelo, however, gave emphasis to the US State department's acknowledgment of the Duterte government's "deeper challenges" in dealing with drug personalities.
"Its assessment is respectful of the government’s deeper challenges, [like] deaths of many law enforcement officers during operations, even as accountability of those from the same ranks is guaranteed through investigations of 'any actions taken outside the rule of law,'" he said.
"The report points out that government civilian control over its law enforcers is exercised, citing a statement from the President that while the anti-drug campaign is 'far from over' with its xrelentless and chilling' effect, all police who are corrupt are hunted down and jailed," he added.
Panelo also expressed gratitude that the US Department of State recognized the sentencing of three police officials involved in the Kian delos Santos killing, and the rehabilitation of 1,274,148 drug personalities who surrendered to authorities.
He likewise took note that the report acknowledged the government’s efforts to promote "speedy" disposition of inmate cases, including the use of plea bargaining.
The Palace official also believed that the US State Department report was "sympathetic" to the Duterte government’s challenges in the peace process.
"It specifically cited that 'Muslim separatists, communist insurgents, and terrorist groups continue to attack government security forces and civilians, causing displacement of civilians and resulting in the deaths of security force members and civilians,'" Panelo stressed.
"It also mentions how insurgents caused the death of 14 civilians whom they used as human shields upon being cornered by the military. The report likewise takes note of 'terrorist organizations engaged in kidnappings for ransom bombings of civilian targets, beheadings, and the use of child soldiers in combat or auxiliary roles,'" he added.
Panelo said the report also "extolls" the Philippine armed forces’ rescue of 15 of these child soldiers from the New People’s Army (NPA).
"The NPA, along with the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), Abu Sayyaf Group, Maute Group, Ansar al-Khilafah, the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) and other extremist groups, are identified as the perpetrators behind the killing of civilians on mere suspicion of being military and police informers," he said.
Panelo was also grateful that the report mentioned the Philippines's milestones in addressing concerns of vulnerable groups.
He then took as example the government’s use of its 16 rehabilitation centers around the country to assist around 1,650 children in conflict with the law, as well as its mobilization of youth centers managed by local governments to provide protection, care, training and rehabilitation for these children.
Panelo added that the report cites "free, fair and well-organized" conduct of the local elections for village and youth officials in May last year.
"If only for these positive observations, and there are more, we find the 2018 report by the US State Department relevant," he said.
"While the report also cites the usual criticisms against the administration, we reiterate that the President and this government have never sponsored any form of violation of human rights nor will they tolerate them," he added.
Panelo said the current administration would continue undertaking measures that will help in addressing the challenges being faced by the country.
"We note that there may be isolated accounts of abuse on the part of its law enforcers. We continue to address them and hold the transgressors accountable," he said. (SunStar Philippines)