Re The Ambassador Replies (Dec 12, Globe and Mail) to A New Weapon Against Press Freedom In The Philippines (Dec. 6, Globe and Mail)

The statements made by Ambassador Petronila Garcia, are false and misleading. The judicial harassment against Rappler have little to do with enforcing Philippine Law as the Ambassador claims and much to do with silencing dissent. Despite the Ambassadors claims that “the judiciary remains an independent branch of government” this is far from the reality. Last year the president lost patience with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and had her impeached after several rulings contrary the Presidents War on Drugs. The Military and Philippine National police have long used the judiciary to harass political opponents. Last week fake charges were filed against 700 activists in Mindanao. The week before Senior opposition leaders Satur Ocampo and France Castro were among 18 people charged with child trafficking when they attempted to protect Indigenous Students at a Lumad school which was being harassed by government backed militias. There are nearly 600 political opponents of the Duterte government in prison awaiting dismissal of the bogus charges against them, a process which normally takes five to seven years. Judicial harassment is simply a tool in the arsenal of a government wishing to crush dissent.

The Ambassador’s references to Duterte administration’s commitment to keeping the press in the Philippines one of the freest in Asia, if not the world rings hollow. Last year the owners of one of the leading opposition papers the Philippine Daily Inquirer were forced to sell their broadsheet to a Duterte ally. Further the Philippines remains one of the most dangerous places for journalists on the planet. It was the most dangerous country in Asia for Journalists in 2017. In the first two years of the Duterte Administration more journalists were killed (12) than in the first two years of any presidency. We still await justice in the 2010 Magindanao Massacre in which more than 30 journalists were killed, and yet not a single senior level perpetrator of the Ampatuan clan has been convicted of the crime. Threats, judicial harassment and murder; this is what passes for a free press and independent judiciary in the Philippines.
“Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch,” Duterte said when asked how he would address the media killings in the country a few days after he was elected as the 16th president of the country in 2016.

Read more:

International Coalition for Human Rights (ICHRP Canada)
Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (OCHRP)
Center for Philippine Concerns (CPC)
Canada Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR)

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Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR)

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