MANILA – The Duterte administration has prioritized human rights and dignity of all Filipinos in the time of the pandemic, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said Wednesday, denying a report which claimed that killings in the country worsened during the ongoing health crisis.

In a statement, Andanar denounced the Human Rights Watch (HRW) September 8 report titled “Killings in Philippines Up 50 Percent during Pandemic”, describing it as “gross distortions” of the situation in the country.

“The article has weak methodological anchor, and severely falsifies realities in the country,” Andanar said.

The HWR said it analyzed government statistics and found 155 persons were allegedly killed in the past four months compared to only 103 persons from December 2019 to March 2020.

Andanar urged the HRW to avoid the use of “unqualified and unverified data” and “conclusions derived from flawed methodologies and drawn with ideological blinders”.

“We believe in the role of an empowered civil society in nation-building and transforming communities for the better. Therefore, we encourage the HRW and other global human rights watchdogs to uphold the highest level of integrity and credibility to maintain their relevance and positive force,” he said.

He said the administration has also maintained its commitment to pursue the anti-illegal drug campaign with lawful enforcement operations throughout the pandemic.

The PCOO chief rejected allegations of state-sanctioned extra judicial killings that have resurfaced and vowed to investigate allegations and prosecute cases.

“Internal accountability mechanisms within our law enforcement agencies, such as the Philippine National Police, are in place to ensure that wrongful actions by law enforcers are addressed,” he said.

Andanar also said the administration remains to be receptive and willing to engage with individuals, groups, and organizations to act on relevant matters and issues, especially on human rights.

“We remain in cognizance of our international and humanitarian obligations as we continue to promote all Filipinos’ inherent freedoms and human rights throughout our administration,” he said.

According to Andanar, the administration was focused on carrying out socio-economic interventions to stretch the resources and capacities of the government.

He said the Philippines’ Covid-19 response enjoys the confidence and support of the Filipino people as attested by the global polling firm Gallup International Association.

Results of the Gallup survey, conducted April 6 to 8, showed that 80 percent of Filipinos are convinced that the Duterte administration is handling the Covid-19 crisis “well”.

Last Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque brushed aside the HRW report saying it was usual for human rights groups to make noise about issues to be heard.

“Ganyan talaga ang trabaho ng mga human rights groups. Mag-ingay para iyong mga gobyerno eh pakinggan sila. Pero hindi naman ibig sabihin na lahat ng sinasabi nila ay gospel truth (That’s how human rights groups work. They make noise so the government would listen to them. But it does not mean that everything they say is gospel truth),” he said. (PNA)