PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO/ ROBINSON NIÑAL

A SOUTHEAST Asian human rights group sounded the alarm over ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s remarks against a congresswoman after the House of Representatives scrapped his daughter Vice-President Sara Duterte-Carpio’s 2024 confidential funds.

“Asian Parliamentarians for Human Rights stands in solidarity with our member Rep. France Castro, and with all other parliamentarians in the Philippines that have been the target of unwarranted threats and harassment simply for carrying out their mandates,” Syerleena Abdul Rashid, a member of Parliament for Bukit Bendera in Malaysia, said in a statement posted on the group’s X account.

In an SMNI interview last week, Mr. Duterte said he had told his daughter to say that she would use her proposed intelligence funds to kill Maoists in Congress including Ms. Castro, a party-list lawmaker.

“Your first target in your intelligence fund is France, the communists, whom you want to kill,” he said. “Tell her now.”

He also said Ms. Duterte-Carpio’s secret funds would be used to revive citizen’s army training, which youth groups have opposed due to corruption and human rights violations in the past.

Ms. Syerleena said Mr. Duterte’s remarks “have no place in a democracy or, indeed, any civilized society.”

Ms. Castro, a member of the minority at the House, had opposed P650 million in confidential funds of Ms. Carpio as vice president and Education secretary, noting that these agencies do not have intelligence and security mandates.

Ms. Carpio had sought P500 million in confidential funds for her office and another P150 million for the Education department.

Ms. Castro also questioned Ms. Carpio’s confidential funds worth P125 million that she allegedly spent in less than a month last year.

“One of the mandates of parliamentarians is to act as a check and balance for other branches of governments, including overseeing the state budget,” Ms. Syerleena said. “How can parliamentarians do this effectively if they are threatened with violence for simply questioning the use of state funds?”

Philippine congressmen last week stripped several agencies including the Office of the Vice President and Education department of their confidential funds, transferring P1.23 billion worth of these budgets to security agencies amid worsening tensions with China.

In response, Mr. Duterte described the chamber as the “most rotten institution” in the country.

Ms. Syerleena called on Mr. Duterte to apologize to Ms. Castro and the entire House.

In a joint statement, several congressmen also asked Mr. Duterte to “avoid making threats or insinuating harm against any member of the House or the institution itself.” “Dialogue and understanding should always be at the forefront, superseding divisive rhetoric.”

Ms. Syerleena also called on Philippine politicians and government officials to refrain from using ‘red-tagging’ and other similar tactics to vilify and demonize their political opponents. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz