There is no truth to the accusation of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that the Philippines is using the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse to clamp down on freedom of expression and to tighten censorship.
We remain a nation that takes pride in protecting our people’s rights and freedoms, among which is the freedom of expression. But there are circumstances – and we have said this on numerous occasions – wherein such freedom becomes subject to derogation. A form of derogation falls under the criminal clause in Republic Act 11469, or the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act. The unconscionable conduct by individuals or groups to create, perpetrate, or spread false information on the COVID-19 crisis on social media and other platforms does not constitute a right or freedom, but a crime.
We have a working, independent and functioning justice system in the country, where such cases are addressed. The Duterte Administration takes each case, be it a violation of the freedom of the press or of any other human rights, brought before its attention seriously and resolves each one within our domestic processes.
Rehashed claims of impunity are unfounded and the Palace reiterates that it has no place in the Philippines. Law enforcers operate on strict protocols and transgressors of the law are made accountable.
We remain steadfast in our pursuit of our obligations and commitments in the stewardship of the welfare and the human rights of our people. The consistent high approval ratings of the President, up to this time, affirm public support for his leadership.