The South China Morning Post Must Apologise to President Duterte

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) has long been a bastion of anti-Beijing rhetoric with long standing ties to pro-British factions in Hong Kong. Although the SCMP is now owned by the Alibaba Group of Jack Ma, the editorial line has if anything become more brazen and provocative than under its former owners.

But beyond attacking the Chinese government, the SCMP has taken a radically liberal/yellow line on Philippine politics with President Rodrigo Duterte being a favourite target of abuse. Of course the editorial line of the SCMP is not the concern of the Philippine government, but when the newspaper spreads outrageous and unsubstantiated allegations about the Philippine President it is only fitting and proper for the government to raise an official complaint against the newspaper.

On the 3rd of October, the SCMP published a piece by resident Duterte hater Raissa Robles entitled, “Philippines plans law to give Duterte Marcos-like powers”. Virtually everything Robles writes is contrary to the reality of the political situation in The Philippines. According to Robles,

“The death penalty will be restored. Torture, allowed. Filipinos could be jailed for their posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Suspected terrorists and even “unwilling witnesses” could be arrested without warrants and detained for 30 days without charge during an “actual or imminent terrorist attack”.

These are just some of the amendments proposed by Philippine security officials to the current Human Security Act of 2007 or Republic Act 9372″.

The facts tell a different story. While President Duterte has stated that he is in favour of restoring capital punishment (something that has been done before in recent Philippine history) and while Congress passed a bill authorising the re-institution of the death penalty, the Senate has effectively left the bill in legislative purgatory. Little progress on the issue has been made as a result and as things stand, capital punishment does not exist in The Philippines.

Secondly, no one anywhere in Philippine politics is discussing jailing anyone over social media posts. The fact that Filipinos are among the most active social media posters in the world indicates that if anything, the online freedoms of Filipinos are only expanding. As for detaining terrorists for longer periods of time, two Senators, neither of whom are members of President Duterte’s PDP-Laban party have introduced proposals for increasing the detention time of suspected terrorists in light of recent jihadist bombings in Mindanao.

Senators Panfilo Lacson and Gregorio Honasan have proposed expanding the period which suspected terrorists can be detained from a mere three days to thirty, thus bringing The Philippines in-line with most moderate international standards. The proposals also include some modest beefing up of intelligence gathering activities in respect of anti-terror police.

It is also crucial to remember that these proposals appear to be a long way from becoming law. While the SCMP piece claims that these proposals are far more severe than they are, while falsely ascribing them to the President, the reality is that the Presidential administration has said that Duterte is not going to declare nation wide martial law nor anything remotely similar as it is President Duterte’s view that the ongoing red-yellow conspiracy to bring down his presidency seeks to provoke the President into declaring martial law. Therefore, Duterte has made it clear that he has no intention of playing into the hands of the conspirators.

While President Duterte is in favour of a tough approach to cracking down on jihadist and far-left terrorism, the article does not accurately reflect the ways in which the Presidential administration seeks to implement a tougher stance on both local and internationally affiliated terror groups including Daesh (ISIS) which currently has cells active in Mindanao.

By publishing such a provocative piece that totally misrepresents the reality in of President Duterte’s security aims, the SCMP has insulting the integrity of The Philippine nation and of all of Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s millions of supporters. Not only should the newspaper retract its allegations but its editorial staff and owners should apologise to President Duterte in writing for insulting his dignity and misrepresenting his policies.

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