Duterte to UN rapporteur: Go home, get some sleep

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Get some sleep.

This was president-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s reply to the United Nations rapporteur who warned him against “inciting violence” after he made his controversial remarks on media killings.

“Go home and get some sleep. You are overworked and sound beat,” Duterte said in a statement sent to media yesterday by his spokesman Salvador Panelo.  

“Your statement is anchored on the wrong premise. I never said that killing journalists is justified because they are involved in corruption,” Duterte added.

Duterte reiterated his belief that one does not need to be a journalist to be assassinated.

“There are many cases where journalists are killed by reason of their advocacies, but there are those who are killed because they take sides and accept bribes and renege on their commitments,” the incoming president said.

“The noble vocation of journalism does not apply to extortionists and criminals,” he added.

Duterte was criticized by media groups after saying that some of the slain journalists had received bribes or were involved in shady deals.

While some journalists interpreted Duterte’s statement as a declaration that corrupt media workers are “legitimate targets,” his spokesman said the incoming president was just misunderstood.

Panelo said Duterte was merely reminding the media that there are journalists who are using the profession to extort money.

Duterte is now speaking through Panelo, following his controversial statements against the media.

Some media organizations have called for a boycott of Duterte’s press conferences.

Duterte, for his part, turned the tables on media, saying he would boycott them. He has since shut down further interviews with media and has not held press conferences.

Some lawmakers said there is no problem if Duterte would continue to ignore the media.

Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said it would be better to allow the incoming president to focus on his work.

“Maybe that’s better so the president could focus on his work. It would be difficult if his time would be consumed by press cons,” Angara said.

“If I remember correctly, past presidents before P-Noy gave press cons maybe once a week and the rest of the time, it was the president’s spokespersons taking care of the media’s concerns,” he said, referring to outgoing President Aquino.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III said presidents rarely make media press briefings.

“Except for very rare occasions… spokesman does it usually,” he said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, however, said the media plays a role in governance.

“This is one thing I can say: both the Office of the President and the media need each other,” Drilon said.

“I am certain that this will come to pass and we will all realize that both the Office of the President and the media will have to work with each other for the sake of our democracy,” he added.

On Tuesday, two UN experts asked Duterte to “stop inciting violence” and scored him for what they described as “irresponsible” statement.

Cristof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions, said Duterte’s message “amounts to incitement to violence and killing, in a nation already ranked as the second-deadliest country for journalists.”

“These comments are irresponsible in the extreme, and unbecoming of any leader, let alone someone who is to assume the position of the leader of a country that calls itself democratic,” he added.

David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, said justifying the killing of journalists on the basis of how they conduct their professional activities “can be understood as a permissive signal to potential killers that the murder of journalists is acceptable in certain circumstances and would not be punished.”

“Such provocative messages indicate to any person who is displeased by the work of a journalist or an activist, for example, that they can attack or kill them without fear of sanction,” he added.

Duterte, however, lashed out at the UN experts, saying they are “more adept at fumigation,” sometimes also known as “foul or idiocy.”

“I do not condone nor tolerate killing of journalists regardless of the motive of the killers or the reason for their killing,” Duterte said.

 “My duty as president is to uphold and enforce the law and I will pursue and prosecute these killers to the hilt in accordance with law, and I will be – as I have been – protective of the rights of journalists and, for that matter of any citizen, of the Republic,” he added. – Alexis Romero, Christina Mendez, Edith Regalado




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