POSTSCRIPT / September 26, 2017 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Alan defending the indefensible

FOREIGN Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano addressed the delegates to the United Nations general assembly Sunday in New York to defend the indefensible – the on-the-spot execution of thousands of suspected drug pushers/users while still presumed innocent.

Upon his return, Cayetano may want to start again from Step No. 1: Convince his boss President Duterte to reprogram his 14-month-old anti-narcotic campaign to wean it away from its brutal Davao template that treats drug addiction more as a crime than a medical problem.

In Manila, meanwhile, the 40-day pealing of church bells and the lighting of candles at 8 p.m. daily started last Saturday, signaling the faithful’s praying for a change of heart, and a deliverance from the impunity that continues to grip the nation.

At the UN, Cayetano applied on delegates the same disinformation tactic used on Filipinos – the blurring of the fact that the spreading objection is not against an anti-narcotic drive per se, but against the brutal manner it is being carried out in violation of human rights.

The secretary was talking to delegates who were more concerned about advancing their own national interests in the world forum than understanding Mr. Duterte’s bloody drug war. Still, Manila’s top diplomat recited his spiel:

“Security and human rights are not incompatible. Indeed, the first is our duty to the other. Without security, the most basic human rights, to life and safety, are constantly under attack – from terrorism, criminality, drug and human trafficking.”

Defending the drug drive against rising criticism, Cayetano reminded the assembly: “Accusation before investigation is not proof. Nor is it fair. Abuses have occurred and mistakes have been made.” He should give Tokhang police raiders the same admonition.

Cayetano assured UN delegates that the drug drive was meant to save lives, preserve families, protect communities and stop the Philippines from turning into a narco-state.

He should have campaigned along that line before the session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last Sept. 19 where the European Union said it “remains deeply concerned about the high number of killings” in the Philippines.

The Philippines is on the EU list of countries with human rights situations requiring the attention of the UNHRC.

The foreign office claimed over the weekend that the Philippines “scored a big victory in Geneva” when the UN body “overwhelmingly adopted Manila’s human rights report card.” The adoption, however, also covered other states’ positon including their calls to investigate the killings.

• How to know if Duterte is lying?

THE WARNING of Cayetano that disinformation may distort perceptions of the drug war is double edged, because the administration itself has been disseminating false news – which happens to be a crime under the latest Revised Penal Code amendment.

In fact, President Duterte is emerging as the prime source of fake news, if not outright lies. Things have sunk to such a low point that when he says something, one is at a loss whether to believe him or not.

If the prevarication of the highest official of the land keeps on, we may start demanding that any statement of the President be put down in writing on official stationery, affirmed by him under oath, and attested to by the Executive Secretary.

Among his latest statements is that he wants his daughter Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio to succeed him as president. (Paano na si Cayetano at si Bongbong Marcos?) Even that preposterous idea should be sworn to, under pain of perjury if it turns out to be another lie, or a big joke.

Mr. Duterte keeps changing his mind, or resorts to lying when caught with a false statement, that even his spokesman seems to be having a difficult time interpreting, clarifying or sorting out what the President is saying or trying to say.

• Trolls, hackers working overtime

WITH trolls and hackers all over the Internet, writers who do not have researchers are now exposed to the horrifying possibility that they may be set up to pass on wrong information.

Two colleagues found this out over the weekend after they quoted from a false report posted on a fake (or hacked?) Al Jazeera website. The report sounded compelling since it quoted Ambassador Nikki Haley, US representative to the United Nations, as saying that President Duterte be given the benefit of the doubt and ample space to run his nation as he sees fit.

I also saw the same report but found Haley’s supposed statement strange since there was no triggering incident for her to suddenly say those “nice” things about Mr. Duterte. Meantime, I moved to other sites, and when I returned to it, the news item was missing.

Before more damage could be inflicted, US embassy press attaché Molly Koscina alerted the media Sunday:

“Sending a quick note to let you know that Ambassador Haley’s remarks at the USUN are available at the US mission to the UN’s website. There has been reporting recently incorrectly quoting a speech that was never made.”

Haley was quoted as saying in the fake report: “The Philippines is suffocating. We must give President Duterte the space to run his nation. We must respect their independence… It is not in our purview to decide administrative issues for the Philippines.

“Destructive forces have never given the Duterte administration enough space to jump-start his programs of government; they did not even afford him the proverbial honeymoon period…. Now, they have calibrated their plot to ouster movements and this is just the second year of his presidency.”

Last Friday, Al Jazeera correspondent Jamela Alindogan was said to have warned on her Facebook page: “This is a fake aljazeera website. The correct one is Trolls are working overtime. Their intention is to discredit journalists and to fool the public.”

Yesterday, the Canadian embassy issued its own warning about the same fake website.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 26, 2017)

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