The Missing “Zero”: Disproving Cayetano’s Claim on Tolerance for Abuse
“AT ALL times, the Duterte administration seeks to uphold the rule of law. In fact, the president, President Duterte has a zero policy… has a policy of zero tolerance for abuse of law enforcers. This statement and policy of President Duterte is rarely, if at all, shown in Western media.”
That was newly-appointed Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, speaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland last May 8. Co-chairing the Philippine delegation with Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs Menardo Guevarra, Cayetano presented the human rights situation in the Philippines for the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
The UPR is a mechanism that enables the UN to scrutinize and check the human rights record of each of the 193 UN member states. Conducted every four years, the UPR gives all member states the opportunity to report the actions they have taken to fulfill their obligations and address violations. It is interactive as forty seven members of the Human Rights Council attend and can ask questions and give comments.
Cayetano supported his claim with a video clip of Duterte’s State of the Nation Address, during which the president said there would be “hell to pay” should security forces abuse their authority. Yet Cayetano’s statement about the president’s non-tolerance of abuse is belied by Duterte himself.
CMFR cheers VERA Files for issuing a fact-check report by tracking Duterte’s speeches that disprove Cayetano’s claim, quoting the president in two occasions during which he sided with the police despite allegations of wrongdoing. So far, VERA Files is the only one to have made the effort to correct this particular claim that Cayetano said before the UNHRC.
Duterte admitted in December 2016 that he ordered the reinstatement of Supt. Marvin Marcos, who was implicated in the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa inside a sub-provincial jail. The president said that he had “absolute control and supervision over the police,” and so did not have to explain the reason for Marcos’ reinstatement. He told the police to obey his orders, adding that he would be the one to “answer for it personally.”
VERA Files also quoted Duterte’s speech on March 29 during the People’s Day Celebration in Oriental Mindoro, when he said he would protect the police or military men who obey his orders, and pardon them should they be convicted in court.
Cayetano, Duterte’s former running mate and staunch ally, had previously been criticized and fact-checked by Rappler for using questionable figures during a Senate hearing to defend the drug war. His statements in Geneva — that there are no state-sponsored killings and Duterte critics have been peddling “alternative facts” — need to be challenged and pushed back by the press, especially since these were made before an international human rights panel.
The UNHRC has called on the Philippines to end the killings and stop the reimposition of the death penalty. Reports should now update the public about how government responds to council’s recommendations—not just official statement but concrete actions – and to report on the lack of response. Claims made by government officials should be constantly checked for accuracy, especially when these involve policy matters and, as in the matter of Cayetano’s defense of Duterte, the question of human rights.