PCOO officials’ trip in Europe on tax payer’s money, a junket to salvage PH govt’s notorious HR record

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Jose Andanar revealed in a news release on February 18 that the agency’s officials were sent to Europe to be part of the government’s official delegation as part of the National Task Force (NTF) to End Communist Armed Conflict and to clarify the issue on involuntary disappearances.

“Well, the PH government has decided on a new, devious approach. Gone were the days when Duterte recklessly lambasts the international community to no end and proudly proclaims his contempt and disdain for human rights. Now his minions are on a mission for damage control by using a wide range of tools that wield more injustice -- justifying the killings, erasing recognition of the victims, removing State accountability, and attacking human rights organizations and media outlets who expose these violations on the ground. Instead of resolving these cases and adopting a human-rights based approach in its policies, the Duterte government is instead wasting taxpayer’s money on these junkets to deodorize the stench of this government’s human rights record. These efforts are superficial,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Palabay also noted that this Press Freedom caravan initiated by the PCOO and the NTF is turning out to be a black propaganda junket to salvage the Duterte government’s notorious human rights record. “Victims are instead branded as terrorists and mechanisms to safeguard people’s rights pushed forward mainly by the efforts of civil society are being co-opted and twisted in this government’s desperate PR stunt. This caravan is mainly saying, with its kind of reasoning, that either the victims deserved to be killed or all these allegations are false. In truth, it is this government which has no credibility, especially in matters of people’s rights and good governance,” she added. 

The Karapatan secretary general also raised the issue of military and intelligence officers being brought on board these trips. “Our attention has been called regarding the conduct of military and intelligence officers who make rounds in diplomatic missions to red-tag specific organizations and dissuade them from providing resources that go into the campaigns and initiatives of said groups. This situation puts into peril the many effforts of human rights defenders and various organizations to provide services for the many that are marginalized and neglected by past and present governments. Years of hard work and concrete actions to respond to these specific needs are being maligned and in danger of being overturned. Their operation is gradual and surreptitious, but altogether perilous to the movement, capacity, and spaces being maximized by civil society,” Palabay revealed.

“We emphasize that laws championed and tirelessly lobbied by human rights organizations, such as the Anti-Enforced Disappearances Law and the Anti-Torture Law, were partly borne out of the support provided for by diplomatic missions and the international community who assisted in these campaigns. These laws are now being credit-grabbed by the government while simultaneously red-tagging the organizations and sectors who were the main movers behind these efforts. Until now, it is the strong people’s movement in the country who remind the government of its obligations and are consistently monitoring the implementation (or lack thereof) of these laws,” she emphasized.

“All this must be considered at the backdrop of the Duterte regime’s over-all repressive directive. From the blatant to the subtle, the attacks continue from all fronts. We urge all organizations to remain vigilant and to continue to expose violations against the people’s right to organize, right to assembly, and freedom of association, freedom of expression, among others. Likewise, we call on United Nations Human Rights Council, the diplomatic missions from the EU Parliament, the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Commission, and Filipino leaders in the international community to heed the position of organizations being maligned by the military and certain government agencies. Our work and advocacy in the advancement and defense of human rights is enough to put an end to these allegations; our work will speak for us,” concluded Palabay.

References: Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General, +639173162831 

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580