Palace: Bernie Sanders 'grandstanding, meddling' in tweet about Philippine workers

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Palace: Bernie Sanders 'grandstanding, meddling' in tweet about Philippine workers
Screen capture of a tweet by US Senator Bernie Sanders
Twitter.com / Bernie Sanders

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Sunday lambasted US Senator Bernie Sanders, who accused the Duterte administration of committing "abhorrent" human rights abuses against workers.

In a tweet posted last Friday, Sanders, a self-described socialist who is seeking nomination as presidential candidate of the Democratic party, criticized the Philippines' alleged crackdown on its workers, calling it "a shameful attempt to silence people's rights and freedoms."

Sanders shared a statement by the International Trade Union Confederation condemning what it described as "a new wave of police repression of Philippine trade unionists" and called for global support on human rights. The ITUC statement decried the Philippine authorities' operations against suspected communists in Bacolod City last Oct. 31.

According to ITUC, on the night of the raids, "bus workers were holding a union meeting in Bacolod city, capital of the province of Negros Occidental, when the building was raided." 

"Elsewhere in the city, eight people, including four children, were held at gunpoint by police. Witnesses there reported that non-uniformed men entered the property and planted firearms. All 43 adults arrested were charged with the illegal possession of firearms," ITUC also said.

It also claimed that "while the government pledged to investigate the killings of 43 trade unionists in a meeting with the ITUC in August, no progress has been reported and the government is yet to accept the ILO mission to the country, while the violence against activists continues with impunity."

RELATED: Gov’t bucks ILO probe of labor leaders’ slay

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Sanders is just "grandstanding on an issue he obviously does not know the details of." He also accused the senator of "meddling" in the Philippines' national affairs.

"What we find abhorrent is that Senator Bernie Sanders and the International Trade Union Confederation refuse to closely look at the facts at hand, and instead choose to make blanket statements that the Philippine government supposedly violates human rights," Andanar said in a statement.  

ITUC's affiliates in the Philippines are the Federation of Free Workers, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines. 

"We urge all observers and critics to check their facts as some may fall victim to the lies peddled by communist terrorists — terrorists that have humanitarian organizations fronts who seek funding from other legitimate international institutions, only to be used for violence," Andanar said.

READ: Release of 32 activists prove charges were trumped-up, groups say

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Sanders' remark was based on baseless allegations.

"I think it's a shameful attempt also on his (Sanders) part to provide information that he did not validate. He was just repeating the things that critics are saying and are being peddled by foreign news agencies," Panelo said in a radio interview.

Andanar said no one was hurt during the operations against the suspected rebels in Bacolod.

"Authorities did not act rashly in any way and actually gathered actionable intel before conducting the raids in the offices of the organizations," Andanar said.

"While there were several civilians captured, they were immediately released days after the operations. Hence, the supposed 'government abuse' that Sanders and ITUC claim is already false," he added.

Thirty-two—21 laid-off workers of a bus company, and 11 members of cultural group Teatro Obrero—of 57 arrested in the October 31 raids were actually released on November 6. 

Andanar also claimed that stringent measures were undertaken during operations to prevent armed clashes with the communists.

"The Philippine government respects and is all for global human rights. It's just that there are false narratives spread by those who want to bring the government down," he added. 

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