Rights advocates in danger because of Palace claim

A PROGRESSIVE lawmaker and local rights group Karapatan have lambasted Malacañang's allegation that human rights groups are in cahoots with drug lords as "dangerous fake news" and another "fantastic tale and label" that the Palace never seems to run out of.

Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said the latest accusation thrown at human rights groups put the lives of rights advocates in danger.

"That is a very dangerous statement. It put the lives ng ating human rights advocates in grave danger. Ang dami nang namamatay dahil lang sila'y napagkakamalan (Many have died because of mistaken identity.) Fake news' ang sinasabi nilang pinopondohan ng drug lords ang human rights advocates (The allegation that drug lords are funding human rights advocates is fake news)," Zarate said.

In a separate statement, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay warned that with such an allegation, Malacañang could be "cooking up a scenario that will justify a massive tokhang-style killing of activists or it is one of those attempts to evade accountability from domestic and international human rights instruments."

"Malacañang places the blame on human rights organizations for the Duterte administration’s failure to curb the illegal drug problem and accuses them of smearing the country’s reputation," Palabay said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Sunday, March 25, said some human rights groups are being used by drug lords to discredit the administration's efforts to fight drugs.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. echoed the same remark on Monday, March 26, and added that drug lords could be funding the rights groups.

Zarate, in his statement, hit Roque, a known human rights defender before he assumed the post as presidential spokesperson.

"Iresponsable ang statement na 'yan ni Harry Roque, who, tragically, galing pa naman dati sa human rights community. Nagtatapon lang ng statement na wala namang ebidensya, sinisira ang buhay ng tao," he said.

(The statement made by Harry Roque, who tragically was once part of the human rights community, is irresponsible. He is making a statement without evidence. He is destroying lives.)

He said that whatever political spin the administration employs, it cannot hide the thousands of deaths brought about by the administration's war on drugs.

Zarate said it is very sad and ironic that under the Duterte administration, human rights advocates are the ones on the terrorist list, while drug lords are exonerated of their charges.

He was referring to the Department of Justice (DOJ) list of alleged members and supporters of the communist rebels and the DOJ's dismissal of the charges against self-confessed illegal drugs distributor Kerwin Espinosa, alleged drug lord Peter Lim and others. The dismissal has since been overturned and the case again opened to allow the submission of additional evidence.

Karapatan, for its part, said the Palace never seems to run out of fantastic tales and labels.

"They call human rights activists with so many names - NPA rebels, rowdy anti-development strikers, terrorists, destabilizers and now minions of drug lords - all meant to justify the extrajudicial killings, torture and illegal arrest of human rights activists and political dissenters," Palabay noted.

"They make the wildest accusations - human rights organizations are fronts of either the communist movements, the Liberal Party and drug cartels - without an ounce of fact," she added. (SunStar Philippines)
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