PRESIDENTIAL spokesman Ernesto Abella yesterday slammed what he branded as “irresponsible use of power” of a French newspaper that tagged President Rodrigo Duterte a “serial killer” amid the rising death toll in his brutal war on drugs.
“It’s irresponsible the way they have termed it and the way they have carelessly used this word and their media power to paint the Philippines in such a way,” Abella lamented.
The Palace official pointed out that Duterte, despite his volatile rhetoric, has always underscored that all government initiatives must follow the rule of law, even in problems as “drastic” as the drug scourge which has grown into a multi-million-peso industry affecting over 40,000 barangays.
“For the longest time kasi, hindi siya (drug) binigyang pansin, binigyang-tuon. Ngayon, napakalaki na so drastic measures have to be taken for drastic situations. But we appreciate the President, lagi niyang sinasabi, kahit very colorful ‘yung language niya, na in practice, everything has to be done with regularity,” Abella said.
The Liberation, a newspaper in France, published Saturday a banner story entitled “Serial Killer President” portraying Duterte’s anti-drugs campaign that has left over 3,000 people dead.
Written by Arnaud Vaulerin, the four-page article also touched on Duterte’s expletive-laced tirades against US President Barack Obama and Pope Francis, his comments referencing the mass murder of Jews under Adolf Hitler’s command and his alleged ties to a hit squad in Davao City.
But Abella argued that the true state of the country is not reflected by foreign news reports, but by the public’s confidence in Duterte.
“The best picture, the best mirror of what’s happening in the Philippines, is ‘yung tao mismo, ‘yung taumbayan na apektado [the public, the citizens who are affected]. So far, ang nakikita nating response ng tao [the response that we see], they have a very high appreciation of what the President is doing,” he said.
Interior and local government secretary Mike Sueno blamed the failure of several western leaders and the international media to understand the nature and extent of the drug menace in the country.
“Ang tingin ko sobra naman iyan, ano,” Sueno said of the adverse international media reports on the Duterte drug war.
“Hindi nila kasi naintindihan ang problema natin,” Sueno said of the problem of illicit drugs that has dominated headlines during the popular president’s First 100 Days in office.
Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar would only say “no comment. I defer comment.”
The Liberation, a leading newspaper in France, headlined its four-page story about President Duterte, whose first 100 days in office has been marked with the death of over 3,000 drug suspects.
Vaulerin’s sources, whose names were withheld for their safety, also narrated how Duterte was called the “Little King of the Poor” by his supporters.
Superimposed on the article in red and bold were the President’s series of expletives against Pope Francis and US President Barack Obama, as well as his controversial remark citing Adolf Hitler and the Jewish Holocaust in his war on drugs.
The current war on drugs has left nearly 3,700 people dead, with official police operations accounting for less than half, causing concern that the so-called “deaths under investigation” -- the rest not traceable to the police -- are being done by vigilantes or groups secretly empowered by State agents.
Duterte and the police have denied that, saying most of the “DUI” (death under investigation) deaths are caused by drug lords outgunning rivals or wiping out people in their networks who might point them out to authorities.
“Yung mga iba, sila-sila lang ang nagpapatayan—mga drug lord—kasi takot sila na ituturo sila .”
The President had repeatedly warned that the Philippines is edging towards “narco-state” status, and last week said, on warnings that western governments might withhold aid, that the future of drug-free generations cannot be traded with the promise of aid.
Liberation was described in an article by France 24 and Agence France-Presse in 2014 as “one of France’s most iconic media brands,” with a circulation of over 100,000.
That circulation, however, had plunged in recent years from a much higher figure, as the left-wing newspaper’s staff got embroiled in a battle with shareholders who demanded radical change.