Palace claims human rights groups unwitting tools of drug lords

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Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque (left) and DFA Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano (right) (Photo: www.twitter.com / www. philippinenewsnow.com)

By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent

Human rights groups Amnesty International (AI), New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) and all their local counterparts have come under attack by Malacañang for conspiring to de-stabilize the government through their continuing barrage at President Duterte’s anti-drugs war.

Malacañang said the “vicious and non-stop” attacks made by human rights groups against Duterte’s war on illegal drugs form part of de-stabilization efforts against the government. These non-government organizations supposedly use funds provided by big-time drug lords to topple the Duterte administration.

Foreign Affairs Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano claimed that the human rights groups were being used “unwittingly” by drug lords. Cayetano said these groups making vicious noises against the administration could be bankrolled by narco syndicates.

“We do not discount the possibility that some human rights groups have become unwitting tools of drug lords to hinder the strides made by the administration,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. echoed Cayetano. Drug money fueling the attacks of human rights groups against President Duterte is a possibility, declared Roque who was himself a human rights lawyer before he was named Malacañang spokesman.

In a press statement, Roque pointed out that the conspiracy to oust President Duterte is one that could likely be orchestrated by rights activists and their alleged drug lord patrons. “To continue to do and thrive in the drug business, these drug lords can easily use their drug money to fund de-stabilization efforts against the government,” Roque added.

“The illegal drug trade is a multi-billion-peso industry and billions have been lost with the voluntary surrender of more than a million drug users, arrest of tens of thousands of drug personalities, and seizure of billion-peso clandestine drug laboratories and factories,” Roque said.

The statements did not sit well with HRW, a vocal critic of the drug war of the Duterte administration. It chided the administration officials for insinuating links between drug traffickers and human rights groups.

“The statements by Philippine Foreign Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano and President Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque that drug lords may be using human rights groups to criticize and undermine the government are shockingly dangerous and shameful,” HRW Asia Director Brad Adams said.

Adams asked: “Are they trying to have death squads target human rights activists? Cayetano and Roque provide no evidence. They should withdraw their comments immediately.”

Neither Cayetano nor Roque named who or what group he’s referring to but alleged that the rights groups’ criticisms on the administration are always not objective.

Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo shrugged at the HRW statement.

“I think the comments are misplaced. I read the comments of both Sec. Alan and Sec. Harry and they said (NGOs) may be unwilling or rather unwitting victims of drug lords organizations…I don’t think there is (any issue),” Panelo said.

“Well, human rights groups need funding, right? (Drug lords) can always fund (NGOs) without them knowing,” Panelo added.

Weeks back, the Philippines pulled out as a signatory to the Rome Statute which created the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the administration’s belief that it is being used as a political machinery against Duterte.

The ICC is holding a preliminary examination on the crimes against humanity charges against Duterte over the conduct of the war on drugs. The Hague tribunal is reviewing allegations on the series of killings attributed to Duterte’s war on illegal drugs.

In an earlier press briefing, Roque said international lobby groups primarily linked to George Soros and Filipino-American philanthropist and businesswoman Loida Nicolas-Lewis could have influenced the decisions of the ICC and the United Nations Human Rights Council to conduct probes on Duterte.

Roque, moreover, insisted that the Philippines is definitely facing a tough problem against illegal drug trafficking, a domestic reality which foreign groups are not familiar with.

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