THE campaign spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, former Davao City councilor Peter Tiu Laviña, has yet to answer questions about a post he made on Facebook during the weekend, a photo of a woman weeping beside the sprawled body of a dead child.
It’s a photo that can wring anger and grief from all who see it. So why, Laviña wrote, have “human rightists, bishops and presstitutes” stayed so quiet on the plight of those raped and killed by drug addicts, yet raised such an outcry about the human rights of suspected drug pushers and users? “Our righteous battles against drugs and crime are fierce and relentless,” Laviña wrote, “because we face the Devil himself.”
Unfortunately, that post turned out to be misleading. Journalist Froilan Gallardo pointed out on the same social media site that while the child in the photo had indeed been raped and killed, the assault had taken place in Brazil in December 2014, and not in the present-day Philippines.
That doesn’t change two realities. First, it doesn’t change the fact that the murder of any child is condemnable, wherever it takes place; and second, that untold numbers of these heinous assaults have taken place, often because the perpetrators were so drug-addled that they couldn’t think straight.
But getting as close to the truth as possible is a “righteous battle,” too. A tough but necessary undertaking, like the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs, needs to stay as close to the truth as possible, in order to honor its public’s trust and support.
Now, if someone had given him the photo by mistake, Laviña can assure the public that he has taken steps to make sure that his staff verifies all content more strictly. He should know this, being a former editor himself.
But correct this mistake, Laviña must. Deceitful claims may further divide an already divided and fractious nation. These can also raise questions about how much we can trust pronouncements of the President’s closest advisers.