Malacañang on Tuesday slammed a United Nations special rapporteur for claiming that women human rights defenders in the country are threatened, following the cases against Senator Leila de Lima, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.
In his report during the 40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteur Michel Forst reviewed the situation of women human rights defenders.
According to Forst, “Women leaders who represent their groups and speak out on issues tend to be targeted for their visibility, not only to silence them but also to discourage broader dissent.”
The cases of De Lima, Sereno, and Ressa, who are all vocal critics of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, were mentioned in his report.
For Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, however, Forst’s report was “highly misplaced.”
“The report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders on the Philippines is highly misplaced as it is based on fake information supplied by partisan groups who are after political mileage believing they could gain it by bad mouthing President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” Panelo said in a statement.
Panelo, also the President’s chief legal counsel, maintained that the detention of De Lima, ouster of Sereno as the Chief Justice, and the filing of charges against Ressa the veteran journalist were all “products of their own doing.”
“The [Duterte] administration should not be blamed if it enforces the law more rigorously than its predecessors. The administration should likewise not be blamed if its critics have issues following the law. The fact that Senator de Lima, Atty. Sereno and Ms. Ressa are critics of the administration is of no moment and absolutely unrelated to the criminal charges they are facing,” he said.
The Palace official explained that De Lima was then the Justice secretary when drugs proliferated in the National Penitentiary with her participation as alleged in the criminal complaints filed against her.
Sereno, he said, did not provide complete copies of her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth when she applied as Chief Justice during the past administration, thereby affecting her integrity.
Meanwhile, Panelo said Ressa did not pay the correct taxes and published libelous articles against a private citizen, way before the presidency of Duterte.
“The UN Special Rapporteur should, and must, consciously, efficiently and thoroughly verify the facts and circumstances surrounding the aforementioned personalities before reports on their situation are published so as not to stain the integrity and credibility of his office,” said Panelo.
“One of the hallmarks of this Administration is its determination in promoting law and order in the country. We will prosecute violators of the law regardless of their social and political status,” he added.