Weapons of Partisanship, Instruments of Abuse

Statement of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

THE PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) has filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) charges of sedition and obstruction of justice, among other offenses, against members of the opposition, lawyers, priests and officials of the Catholic Church, and the vice president of the Philippines. If these reach the courts, the Duterte administration will demonstrate to the entire world the failed justice system in the country, contrary to its boast that there are sufficient safeguards in that system to protect human rights.

Patently political and partisan in their objective, the accusations have been based solely on the dubious testimony of a witness who had been dismissed by the PNP in the past – when the same person implicated members of the Duterte family in the illegal drug trade. The PNP accusations against critics of the president reveal how the law has become a weapon aimed at critical analysis and dissent. Far from functioning as instruments of justice, the DOJ and the PNP have become the key agencies in the systematic violation of the human rights of Filipino citizens.

To disprove this allegation, the Department of Justice must forthwith dismiss the PNP complaints as unworthy of the courts’ attention. It must do so promptly and with finality in order to uphold a hallmark of an authentic democracy, and to prove its fidelity to its name and its mandate.

Such a dismissal will expose the charges as a misguided tactic to distract attention from the issues raised by China’s activities in the West Philippine Sea; the cases of corruption involving government officials which have not been followed up with charges; and the use of violence against suspects in the government’s “war” on drugs.

If DOJ gives credence to these charges, it will be part of the effort to criminalize political criticism. It shall be acting on the president’s repeated identification of government critics with so-called plots to destabilize or to oust him from office. The blatant attempt to tar with one brush leading political figures, along with activist lawyers and members of the clergy, proves the well-practiced use of fear to silence anyone, individuals and organizations, institutions and communities who dare to scrutinize and examine the actions of the regime unrestrained by the slightest scruples in the wielding of police power, undisciplined by the rigors of due process.

We call on the investigators and prosecutors of the DOJ, the lawyers who will review the evidence; and ultimately the secretary of justice himself.

We call on the press to follow through with its coverage of the DOJ’s investigation of the evidence, so citizens can be informed, assuring that the media’s first draft can contribute to an accurate assessment of the Duterte administration’s commitment to justice.

Otherwise, history will be their judge. Investigators in the future, including scholars and experts, will submit to scrutiny the documents that show how these public officials, most of them lawyers, have contributed to the perversion of justice in this dark period of Philippine history.