The ongoing efforts by Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) secretary Martin Andanar and his team here in Geneva to mislead the international community is ludicrous if only it is not perilous.
Bellowing before governments, international media and human rights experts at the ongoing 43rd session of the Human Rights Council that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte “has created a transparent government, an enabling media environment, a safe space for journalists and yet it is open to criticisms,” Sec. Andanar again performed a show abundant in spins, slants and distractions.
What safe space is Sec. Andanar talking about? As he leads his team in Europe, various and diverse media organizations all over the Philippines held protest actions against Pres. Duterte’s open threats to shut down dominant multimedia outfit ABS-CBN. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and ABS-CBN Regional Network Group stations held candle-lighting activities while NUJP chapters and local press clubs held similar activities. In the heart of the metropolis in Quezon City, the NUJP-led the 7th consecutive Friday protest action to denounce the latest threat against press freedom.
After the rally in Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao just recently while Sec. Andanar was going to town painting a sunny picture, NUJP-CDO chair Pamela Jay Orias, long-time members and former officers Froilan Gallardo and Cong Corrales, and Joey Nacalaban, all of them also members of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club, were again red-baited, including NUJP chair Nonoy Espina and his sister and former chair Inday Espina-Varona, the Radyo ni Juan network and its reporter Loi Algarme, and Radyo Natin anchor, Dan Morgado.
The Duterte administration has launched a multi-pronged attack on independent journalism in the Philippines even before Pres. Duterte officially assumed office. On May 31, 2016, at a press conference in his native Davao City, he set the tone with his relations with media, declaring: “It’s not because you’re a journalist you’re exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch.”
More than three years into his bloody rule, 15 journalists were killed in line with their work while hundreds were threatened, harassed and abducted.
The whole wide world Mr. Andanar knows about Maria Ressa, Rappler, Inday Varona and the Matrix, the Inquirer, the cyberattacks on alternative media like Bulatlat, and now ABS-CBN and the red-tagging where the whole government machinery and its apparatuses weigh down on those who do not toe the official line or simply earn the king’s wrath.
Mr. Andanar also asserted in his speech that the UNHRC and the international community have been misled by groups “affiliated” with the “communist-terrorists” masquerading as human rights defenders on the human rights situation in the Philippines. He play-acts obliviousness to the countless complaints and reports filed before offices of UN special rapporteurs and treaty bodies – complaints and reports which the Philippine government never bothered to directly address, contented in deflecting accountability by ad hominem attacks against those who filed the complaints and UN independent experts themselves. Typical of blindly loyal sycophants and redtaggers and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), the good Secretary now uses the international stage at the UNHRC to dress up if not foment outright fake news which provides further pretext for attacks against human rights defenders accessing the UN international rights mechanisms.
We hereby serve notice that Mr. Andanar cannot go on with his solo act backed up by his retinue of apologists just like that. Several organizations under the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) have already submitted to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights at least 16 reports on the Philippine government’s human rights violations, including reports from NUJP, Karapatan, National Council of Churches of the Philippines, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers and Rise Up for Life and for Rights. We will rain out on his party not because we are party poopers but because we will keep on telling the truth because our own government refuses to stop lying.
We will counter Andanar and the the government misleading line at the UNHRC’s 43rd session. We will tell things as they are – naked unblemished – and affirm further the world’s belief that the Duterte administration is the worst enemy of press freedom and human rights since the dark days of martial law of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. martial law.
And we will continue to fight in all legitimate venues and platforms to ensure that the whole wide world will not miss the real news from the Philippines just because nobody will be left to report it. #
*EcuVoice delegation at the 43rd UN HRC session: Atty. Olalia, NUPL National President NUPL & IADL Transitional President; Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat; Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay; NUJP Deputy Secretary General Raymund Villanueva; Iglesia Filipino Independiente Bishop Antonio Ablon; Kalikasan spokesperson Clemente Bautista Clarissa Ramos (wife of slain human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos); Llore Pasco (mother of two victims in the drug war); Fr. June Mark Yanez; and Johanna dela Cruz of the NCCP.