There was a hollow ring to the government’s denunciation of a recent European Parliament resolution on human rights abuses in the Philippines.
Certainly, the strongly worded denial from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) would have been far more credible, had it not come in the wake of the arrest and detention of Dr. Maria Natividad Castro, who was whisked away by police and military agents from home in San Juan City over the weekend and flown to Agusan del Sur without the knowledge of her lawyers or her family.
Castro, 53, a well-regarded doctor who helped poor communities in Mindanao and championed human rights, was accused of kidnapping, but neither she nor her lawyers have been given the particulars of her case.
But the police allege that Castro is a ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), an allegation that her lawyers and members of her family have denied.
While the police claim they followed protocol and that her rights were “protected,” it is clear that Castro was the victim of red-tagging, an insidious practice in which critics of the government are routinely accused of being communists and terrorists. The practice has grown more common with the passage of the draconian Anti-Terrorism Act and the formation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
Red-tagging was just one of some 18 examples of human rights abuses cited by the European Parliament in its 2,700-word resolution that also called on the European Commission to temporarily withdraw duty-free privileges for Philippine exports while there is no substantial improvement on the human rights front.
Among all the points raised by the European Parliament, however, the DFA seemed most perturbed by its concern over the coming elections, and the hope that these would lead to “a new democratic government which uphold human rights, investigates and prosecutes past human rights violations and rejoins the Rome Statute” that would restore the country’s membership in the International Criminal Court.
“We condemn the misguided attempt of the European Parliament to interfere in the Philippine electoral process through its resolution raising already discredited allegations of human rights violations in the thin hope of heavily influencing the outcome in favor of its choice,” the DFA said.
The DFA also claimed that the resolution was pushed by European supporters of “libelous journalists and bitter critics of the current administration.”
In our current red-tagging milieau, we are surprised the DFA did not also blame “communists and terrorists.”