At the weekend, the Philippines’ most senior diplomat, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano (photo, left), denounced Human Rights Watch (HRW) – a lead critic of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte – for its “Strategy of Deception” in its reporting on the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.
HRW has an odious record of biased reporting which goes back many years. Here’s what Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor – which analyses the output of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – said about HRW. “Its publications reflect the absence of professional standards, research methodologies, and military and legal expertise, as well as a deep-seated ideological bias against Israel”.
Human Rights Watch is a powerful NGO, with a big budget. It also has close links to Western governments – particularly the US – and significant influence in international institutions. It counts among its sponsors Open Society Foundations (OSF), established by billionaire Leftist activist, George Soros. In 2010, Soros made a US$100 million 10-year donation to HRW. So we can assume that’s for services to be rendered – a marker which OSF can call in at any time.
Another of its sponsors is the Ford Foundation which has been accused of being funded by the US Government and in the past has employed numerous agents from the Central Intelligence Agency while maintaining close links with the US State Department.
HRW policy and US policy run along strikingly parallel lines – which is not surprising considering a number of HRW officials have been involved in US Government foreign-policy roles. There’s also a crossover path between the two institutions. It’s all very incestuous. For example, Tom Malinowski, a former HRW Washington director, subsequently became Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor under then US president Barack Obama.
Prior to joining HRW, he’d been a speechwriter for former secretary of state, Madeline Albright, a ‘special adviser’ to former US president, Bill Clinton, and had served on the National Security Council. In 2014, while in the role Obama had given him, the Bahraini Government expelled him for consorting with members of an opposition group while on an official visit to the island state. Evidently, old HRW habits are hard to kick.
The organisation’s attacks on Duterte, however, are just the latest in a long list of campaigns against leaders it happens to disagree with or dislike. Thus, for HRW Duterte is merely the current distasteful flavour of the month. It’ll have others in the future as it has in the past.
The fact is also, it doesn’t like any of Southeast Asia’s leaders and it’s taken issue with and made allegations against every one of them. Vietnamese prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung; Laos president, Bounnhang Vorachith; Brunei’s sultan, Hassal Bolkiah; Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak; Cambodian prime minister, Hun Sen; Thai prime minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha; Myanmar’s president, Thein Sein, Indonesian president, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, and Singapore prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong have all come in for HRW criticism for the conduct of their governments.
In other words, in the eyes of Human Rights Watch, every single leader of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has committed some human-rights crime or violation. And right now, Duterte just happens to be top of its hit list.
Furthermore, its strategy in dealing with Duterte is no different to that which it employs against its other targets of hate. Here’s what NGO Monitor had to say. “[HRW] Lobbies the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and other international frameworks, promoting false, distorted, and unverifiable allegations against Israel”.
Sound familiar? It should; after all, it’s spent the past 18 months lobbying the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and other international frameworks, promoting false, distorted, and unverifiable allegations against Duterte.
In 2009, HRW accused the Ethiopian Government of war crimes and crimes against humanity. It claimed that Ethiopian troops had committed “systematic atrocities” – raping and torturing civilians and burning down their villages in the country’s Ogaden region. The timing is interesting; an election was planned for the following year and HRH’s ‘material’ seems to have been supplied largely by the political opposition.
Sound familiar? It should. Its accounts of ‘human-rights violations’ in the Philippines anti-illegal drugs campaign is a similar piece of fiction based on newspaper clippings from anti-Duterte media and ‘information’ made available by Duterte’s political opponents. HRW has been going after Duterte since 2009 when he was the mayor of Davao City in the southern island region of Mindanao. Of the line-up of candidates for the May 2016 presidential election, Duterte was the last one HRW wanted to win.
Returning to the Ethiopia controversy for a moment, a subsequent report commissioned by the government in Addis Ababa found that people reported to have been killed and tortured were alive and well and that the ‘torched’ villages were completely in tact. It rubbished HRW’s reporting as one-sided and slapdash. It also found that HRW had never visited the Ogaden.
Below we reproduce Cayetano’s statement in the hope that those who oppose the Duterte administration for nothing more than blind political bias will start to question the morality of HRW’s actions. Perhaps we’re asking too much, but we’ll give it a shot anyway.
We don’t expect Human Rights Watch itself to recant. They’re above all that. According to them, their narratives must never be challenged; their word must be accepted without question. Every allegation of bias and misreporting leveled against them by governments from around the world – Honduras, Bangladesh, Egypt, Venezuela, Eritrea, to mention just a handful – they’ve denied outright.
It seems there should be no scrutiny of HRW reporting whatsoever – and for the most part the mainstream media has obliged in the case of its anti-Duterte coverage as it has of its coverage elsewhere in the past. Nor is any verification of its ‘facts’ required. Apparently, whatever comes out of Human Rights Watch is the incontrovertible truth – in fact, anyone who has the temerity to query them is virtually complicit in the crimes they allege.
That’s very similar to the way the Gestapo – the secret state police of Nazi Germany – operated in dealing with Jewish sympathisers under the Third Reich of Adolf Hitler. And for a while it certainly worked for them, too.
But then that probably shouldn’t surprise us either. In September 2009, HRW’s “senior military analyst”. Marc Garlasco, was found to be an “obsessive collector of Nazi memorabilia”. Anti Israel if you read his reports, he was an avid poster to Nazi memorabilia websites. In one such posting, in 2005, responding to a photograph of a leather SS jacket he wrote this: “That’s so cool! The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!” And that elicited this response from the jacket’s owner: “Great feedback mein Freund [my fiend]! Gott mit us [God is with us]”.
Of course, that didn’t seem to embarrass HRW – no doubt they thought it would gain them further currency with the anti-Jewish lobby. And of course, it never apologised for the offence caused to the Jewish people. Instead it painted Garlasco as a ‘serious military historian”. HRW accepts it never makes mistakes.
The organisation’s enduring strategy is to blanket-bomb its victims with a blitzkrieg of propaganda and outright lies. The idea is to create division and then exploit it. This was a strategy perfected by Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s Reich Minister of Propaganda from 1933 to 1945. And for a while it certainly worked for him, too.
Here’s how he described its effectiveness. “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it … a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth … Propaganda must always be essentially simple and repetitious … it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over … It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition …that a square is in fact a circle”.
In its countering remarks to Cayetano’s statement (reproduced below), New York-based Phelim Kine (photo, right), a deputy director of HRW’s Asia Division, said this: “Cayetano’s groundless accusations come as no surprise … They are the latest manifestation of the government’s distraction strategy that appears aimed to sideline domestic and international demands for accountability for what nongovernmental organisations and media outlets estimate is a drug war death toll of more than 12,000 people over the past 18 months”.
Compare and contrast that to what HRW put out to control the damage of the Garlasco scandal: “This accusation [of Garlasco’s Nazi sympathies] is demonstrably false and fits into a campaign to deflect attention from Human Rights Watch’s rigorous and detailed reporting on violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by the Israeli government”.
In other words, it’s all taken from the same boiler plate; the same playbook – attack the target and when the target responds, discredit the response by presenting it as ‘further evidence’ of guilt.
It did the same thing in 2012 over criticism of its failing to denounce then Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over his desire to “kill Jews and annihilate Israel”. According to HRW executive director, Kenneth Roth, “Tehran isn’t inciting genocide and claims to the contrary are part of an effort to beat the drums of war against Iran”. Of course – what else could it be?
Whether Herr Kine has studied Goebbels writings on the subject, of course we have no way of knowing – but certainly his constant and repetitious assaults on Duterte and Philippine law enforcement bear striking similarities to the Goebbels’ methods.
In his responder to Cayetano’s statement, he described the Philippine Foreign Secretary as “Duterte’s chief denier”. And then he said this: “hostility to accountability underscores the need for a U.N.-led international investigation of the killings to help expose the extent of the abuses and to determine possible targets for a criminal investigation, including possible prosecutions for crimes against humanity”.
In other words, the bellicose Kine immediately doubled down on his position. Although yet again, he had no answer for Cayetano’s question, which is: on precisely what does Kine base his allegations – other than biased anti-Duterte media reports and propaganda supplied by the Liberal Party and the Philippine political opposition to the Duterte government.
Here now, in full as a matter of record, is Cayetano’s statement.
“On Tuesday [last week], Human Rights Watch accused us of mounting a strategy of distraction. This, after we challenged it to tell us how it was able to arrive at the thousands it said have been killed in the course of our war against illegal drugs and which it used as basis to support its claim that the human rights situation in the Philippines is at its worst since the time of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
“The reason we took Human Rights Watch to task a few days ago was because it has consistently and deliberately been misleading the international community by making it appear that the Philippines has become the Wild, Wild West of Asia where we just kill people left and right.
“To make such sweeping accusations without being able to support these claims with facts is not just misrepresentation. It is outright deception. Our only question and challenge to Human Rights Watch is for it to explain how it was able to arrive at its numbers when it has not really done any real investigation on the ground. Instead of just telling us how it was able to come up with its figures, Human Rights Watch unfortunately chose to divert the issue.
“The claims of Human Rights Watch that there are more than 12,000 victims in the campaign against illegal drugs could not be possible since this number failed to take into consideration the number of homicides and murders that have also been taking place all across the country. In making such a conclusion, Human Rights Watch is creating the impression that the Philippine Government is engaged in the wholesale slaughter of innocent people. This assertion is false.
“It is lamentable that Human Rights Watch continues to insist on its numbers even when official figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority already show that during the first five years of the Aquino Administration from 2010 to 2015, the Philippines already recorded a total of 79,417 homicides and murders or an average of 13,236 per year. Statistics from the Philippine National Police, on the other hand, show a total of 77,468 murders and homicides for the same period or an average of 12,911 per year during the same period.
“From the time President Duterte assumed office on 1 July 2016 until 27 November 2017, the Philippine National Police recorded a total of 18,491 homicides. The numbers include 3,968 drug suspects who were killed in 80,683 police operations conducted during this period. This means there is one unfortunate death for every 20 presumed law enforcement operations conducted. These operations also resulted in the arrest of 119,023 drug personalities. This means that for every drug personality killed in a police operation, there were 30 others who were taken into custody.
“Of course, there is no perfect law enforcement system. While we strive to ensure that we respect the rights of everyone, including criminal suspects, the reality is that illegal drug syndicates are also capable of unleashing violence. In their undue haste to criticize the Philippine Government, Human Rights Watch and other groups conveniently ignored the right of our law enforcement officers to protect themselves. Eighty-six police officers and soldiers actually lost their lives and another 226 were wounded when drug personalities chose to fight back instead of giving up.
“In its rush to condemn the Philippine Government, Human Rights Watch also ignored our obligation to ensure that Filipinos are able to live in peace, safety and security. It set aside the countless stories of victims of the unspeakable crimes committed by those who sell and use illegal drugs such as the gang rapes and killings by methamphetamine-crazed individuals of children and even their own family members.
“Instead of outrightly crucifying us, Human Rights Watch may perhaps wish to hear the stories of these victims so that it would be able to understand the extent of the problem that we are confronted with. It should also ask ordinary Filipinos how they feel about their government’s efforts to ensure their personal safety and security.
“If Human Rights Watch decides to take a closer look, it would discover that majority of Filipinos actually feel much safer now as a result of our government’s efforts to address the problem of illegal drugs. If it would bother to check, it would know that there is an 8.44 percent decline in crime volume from January to October 2016 to January to October 2017 and a 20.56 decrease in index crime during the same period.
“If Human Rights Watch would care to ask, it will be told about the results of a Pulse Asia survey conducted in the third quarter of 2017 that showed an overwhelming 88 percent supporting the government’s campaign against illegal drugs. It will also see the results of a Social Weather Station Survey conducted during the same period showing a 77 percent public satisfaction rating for our anti-illegal drugs campaign.
“It is about time Human Rights Watch stops politicizing the war we are waging against illegal drugs at the expense of the Philippines and the Filipino people. And it owes the Philippines and the rest of the international community not just an explanation but also an apology for making unfair accusations by skewing the real numbers just so it could advance its own agenda”.
We’re pleased to finally see this statement – The Volatilian™ has been making these same points for well over a year. Here’s a little further back-reading on the subject if you need it. Pledges for a peaceful, lawful, just society, [27 July 2016]; Thugs which mantra (anagram), [1 September 2016]; 10,000 more reasons for the war, [29 November 2016]; Colombia – drugs relative, [10 February 2017]; Real figures for dark Times, [29 March 2017; Cleansing the barangays, [1 April 2017]; Brainwash by mainstream, [24 April 2017]; The politics of drugs, [2 August 2017]; The restive season, [6 December 2017].