MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Thursday belied the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ claim that the Philippine government is using the COVID-19 pandemic to clamp down on freedoms.
“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,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet earlier expressed alarm over several countries in the Asia-Pacific, including the Philippines, for tightening censorship amid the pandemic.
“In the Philippines, arrests have been made under new COVID-19 special powers legislation which criminalizes the alleged spread of ‘false information,’” Bachelet said in a statement Wednesday.
Bachelet cited the artist from Cebu who was arrested for supposedly spreading false information on the surge of COVID-19 cases in a locality.
The UN High Commissioner also mentioned the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) which sought for the deportation of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Taiwan for her online posts critical of President Rodrigo Duterte.
During his online press briefing, Roque said freedom of expression cannot be suppressed in the country though such right is “not absolute.”
“The unconscionable conduct by individuals or groups to create, perpetuate, 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,” Roque noted.
Further, Roque said the claim of impunity “has no place” in the Philippines and that law enforcers “operate on strict protocols” to make transgressors of the law accountable.
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Post time: Jun-05-2020