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MANILA – Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Friday asked the European Union (EU) to refrain from interfering with the country’s domestic affairs following a European Parliament resolution that cited the alleged “rapidly deteriorating human rights situation” in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Huwag na kayong makialam sa amin (Don’t meddle with us), you focus on your own problems, do not interfere, do not intrude into the affairs of this country and this government. Do not assault our sovereignty, wala kayong karapatan na makialam sa aming soberanya at paano namin pinapairal ang mga batas dito (you don’t have the rights to meddle with our sovereignty and how we implement our laws),” he said in his program Counterpoint aired over state-run PTV 4.

Panelo said the country has a Constitution that promotes human rights and upholds the rule of law and due process.

“Hayaan nila tayo rito at sila ay mag concentrate doon sa kanilang mga problema sa kani-kanilang bansa at huwag tayong pakialaman dito (They should let us be and just mind their own issues in their countries),” he added.

The European Parliament, in a resolution, called on the temporary revocation of Manila’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP) status, which allows duty-free entry of Filipino goods to EU member states.

The bloc cited the alleged “seriousness of the human rights violations” in the country, including the “deteriorating level of press freedom” with the cyber libel conviction of Rappler chief Maria Ressa and a former Rappler researcher-writer, and shutdown of broadcast network ABS-CBN.

In a separate statement, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said claims of attempts to silence critics and the media in the Philippines are “wholly unfounded”.

He also accused certain individuals and groups, including Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa of spreading “unverified, and baseless allegations” against the current administration.

“Despite her claims of ‘weaponization of the law’ against her, Ms. Ressa continues to enjoy her inherent right to express her beliefs and thoughts, whether they be verified or not. Her continued allegations against the administration are being done deliberately to escape from her legal obligations,” he said.

Andanar underscored that the administration has pushed for media protection and rights through the creation of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) and signing of the Republic Act 11458 or the Expanded Sotto Law.

“Such attainment for a better status year by year on the list has been recognized by diplomatic delegations, including the European Union,” he said.

He cited a Social Weather Stations’ survey in 2019, which showed that three out of five Filipinos believe that they can speak “openly and without fear” on different issues as well as Manila’s “satisfactory position” in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index at 54th rank in 2019.

“Human rights, freedom of speech, and media freedom, among others, are vital and essential foundations in a democracy, an ideal that a country like ours values very much. These democratic facets, especially the plurality of voices, remain vibrant and alive under the administration of President Duterte, where we welcome and encourage all Filipinos to exercise their inherent rights for us to improve and implement better social services and socio-economic policies for our collective growth and development,” he said. (PNA)

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