Ambassador Petronila Garcia came under fire from Canadian human right groups after her comment to a Globe and Mail article was published, in response to an article written by contributor Carlos Conde.
The report alleged that the Duterte administration is using legal charges as a weapon against journalists critical of its drug war, and it cited the charges filed in court against online news outlet Rappler as an example.
“The cases that have been filed against Rappler Holdings and its president, Maria Ressa, are not “meant to intimidate and threaten the website [Rappler] and, ultimately, to shut it down.”
Garcia, however, insisted that the tax evasion charges filed against Rappler were not meant to “intimidate or threaten the website.
“Her being a journalist, and the ownership by Rappler Holdings of the news website Rappler do not exempt them from their responsibility to file the required tax returns.
It was because they violated Philippine tax laws.
The Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, however, thinks otherwise.
“The Duterte regime is cracking down on all forms of dissent and it has targeted a number of journalists. Journalists aren’t the only profession targeted. We’ve also seen many many lawyers killed in the last couple of years. I think the number right now is 34 who’ve been killed under Duterte’s government,” said committee member Doug Booker.
Echoing the same fears, Canada Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights wants the government to be held accountable for its attacks on media entities.
They also underlined the need for Filipinos to defend press freedom in light of the alleged falsehoods being peddled by the administration.
“Not only the freedom of expression but also the integrity of factual reporting,” said Cortes. “The media is not always correct, but I think we need to honor that the media is there, reporters are there, journalists are there to represent the voiceless.”
Human rights groups are planning to launch actions to ask Canada and Canadian mining companies to put economic pressure on the Duterte administration, as a means to stop human rights abuses in the Philippines.