By Camille A. Aguinaldo, Reporter
THE Philippines does not need the lectures of “inexpert foreign groups on how the run a nation,” Malacañang said on Friday, following a report by a US-based non-governmental organization which labeled the country as a “war zone in disguise.”
The 2018 report of the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) places the Philippines as among the “deadliest countries for civilians” after Syria, Nigeria, Yemen, and Afghanistan, citing the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
“The Philippines is a war zone in disguise. More civilians were killed in the Philippines in 2018 than in Iraq, Somalia, or the Democractic Republic of Congo — highlighting the lethality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “War on Drugs” -cum-state terror campaign. Throughout the year, the Philippines saw similar levels of civilian fatalities stemming from direct civilian targeting as Afghanistan,” the report stated.
According to its website, ACLED is a “disaggregated conflict collection, analysis, and crisis mapping project” which collects information of reported political violence and protests around the world.
For its part, New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HR) said in its annual report that the human rights crisis in the Philippines has “deepened.”
“The human rights crisis in the Philippines unleashed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016 deepened in 2028 as Duterte continued his murderous “war on drugs” in the face of mounting international criticism,” the HRW World Report 2019 stated.
The report also cited the Philippines’ withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC), the removal of Chief Justice Maria Loudes P.A. Sereno, and the presidential revocation of the amnesty granted to Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV.
It also took note of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s (PDEA) plan to impose mandatory drug testing among teachers and schoolchildren from Grade 4 up and the attacks on journalists, among other circumstances.
Despite these incidents, HRW’s annual report also cited the “rare triumph of accountability” with the guilty verdict of three police officers in the murder of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos and the conviction of former military officer Jovito S. Palparan, Jr.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson and Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo described the ACLED report as “remarkable in ignorance and bias.” It was also an “infinitely fallacious finding” to allege state repression in the Philippines, he said.
“Not having presented any proof that it has conducted factual investigation in the country as to the conditions obtaining, it is reasonable to believe that its conclusions is based on allegations made by groups that are hopelessly and blindly critical of the Duterte administration,” Mr. Panelo said.
Mr. Panelo said the government has repeatedly debunked allegations of impunity in the country, maintaining that the anti-illegal drug campaign is goverened by strict police protocols.
Mr. Panelo on Friday also responded to the remarks of former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales at a forum last Thursday about the recycling of dismissed officials and the acquittal verdicts in some graft-related cases in the Sandiganbayan.
“We understand the expression of disappointment of former Ombudsman Morales on the acquittal of the accused in plunder and graft-related cases. But contrary to the perception by some that she is blaming the dismissal of those cases to the current administration, she is not, and she said so herself when asked by this representation,” Mr. Panelo said, citing a conversation with Ms. Morales.
“We are certain that the present Ombudsman (Samuel R. Martires) must have wised up to the legal debacles that his office lost and learned from the lessons presented to it.”