MALACAÑANG on Tuesday dismissed as “derogatory and biased” a documentary film, which looked into President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly campaign against drug dealers and users in the Philippines.
“The Palace is vexed by the continuous spread of disinformation against our country’s campaign against illegal drugs and criminality,” Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
“Foreign audiences have been saturated with false and baseless narratives relative to the Philippine government’s anti-narcotics approach, specifically on the nature and number of deaths arising from police operations against it,” he added.
“On The President’s Orders,” which was produced by award-winning filmmakers James Jones and Olivier Sarbil, will debut at Cinema Village in New York on October 4 and Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles on October 18.
It will also air nationwide in the United States (US) on PBS Broadcast in October. A special press preview is set for September 24 in Los Angeles.
The documentary film was included as official selection of 2019 Sheffield DocFest in the United Kingdom; 2019 HotDocs Film Festival in Toronto, Canada; 2019 Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York and 2019 CPH:DOX in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Panelo, who also serves as Duterte’s top legal counsel, said the US docufilm appeared to be the latest addition to the “unmitigated vilifications” against Duterte.
“Even the title of the docufilm reeks with malice, making it appear that the drug-related deaths were done upon the orders of PRRD (President Duterte),” he said.
The Palace official noted that “as mentioned in the docufilm’s website, caught (on) camera were ‘the victimized slum communities and the police squads blithely executing their countrymen from a perverse moral high ground.’”
“We find this derogatory and biased, if not outright fiction. It is obvious that the film medium is riding on the coattails of the President’s international popularity and success, and is being used as a medium to espouse a one-sided information bordering on black propaganda aimed at gullible foreign audiences who know little or zero-knowledge about the Philippines and its government,” he said.
Panelo further pointed out that “in creating a film, it is easy to select fractions of video clips or soundbites that serve the purpose of the filmmakers in falsely portraying a dangerous Philippines and a murderous government while omitting scenes that reflect the opposite.”
“Moviegoers are more inclined to watch a thrilling film that depicts a country as menacing instead of a lackluster motion picture showcasing its progress and development,” Panelo said.
“Those who will watch the movie is advised and informed that the Philippines is an archipelago where the illegal drug trade is a billion-peso industry, in that 97% of small villages which we call barangay, have or had already been infiltrated,” he added.
Panelo maintained that “the government’s campaign against prohibited narcotics is anchored primarily on national security and public safety.”
He also reiterated that “drug-related killings are absolutely not state-initiated nor state-sponsored.”
“These killings result from violent resistance on the part of those sought to be arrested by police agents, proof of which is the death of scores of policemen and serious injuries to hundreds of others,” Panelo said, adding that “a number of these deaths is also caused by members of the prohibited drug industry who kill each other because of, among others, rivalry, botched deals and swindling.”
“The President, as strict enforcer of the law, does not tolerate abusive police officers. They are not – and will never be – exempted from administrative sanction and criminal prosecution should there be an abuse on their part,” he added.
Panelo then echoed Duterte’s line in his State of the Nation Address that “those who abuse their authority will have hell to pay.”
“The docufilm, together with its so-called cinematic investigation on drug-related deaths, evidently has been deliberately overdramatized for the purpose, apart from putting the Philippines in a bad light, of creating a better cinematic experience for its audience,” he said.
“We caution its potential viewers to be circumspect in evaluating the truthfulness of the film,” the Palace official added.
Duterte has overseen a narcotics crackdown in which police have killed more than 6,000 suspected drug offenders since he was elected three years ago.
Rights groups, however, say the actual number of dead is at least three times higher.
Government has repeatedly denied involvement in summary killings, saying drug suspects slain in police operations had resisted arrest. CATHERINE S. VALENTE