Malacañang hits U.S. senator Sanders for calling out PH human rights abuses

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang dismissed the remarks of United States Senator Bernie Sanders on alleged human rights abuses in the Philippines, saying that the Democratic presidential contender has no right to meddle in the country's affairs.

"Senator Sanders is grandstanding on an issue he obviously does not know the details of, not to mention meddling in our national affairs, which he has no business over," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement on Sunday, November 17.

Andanar was referring to Sanders' tweet last Friday, November 15, which drew attention to the Philippine government's "abhorrent human rights abuses" and "repression of trade unionists," which he called a "shameful attempt to silence people's rights and freedoms."

"More than ever, we must stand on the side of global human rights," Sanders also said.

The US senator made the remarks in relation to a report by the International Trade Union Confederation which condemned the Philippine police's raids on progressive groups' offices in Bacolod City and Manila last October. The raids yielded arrests of at least 62 activists.

In recent years, we have seen abhorrent human rights abuses by the Philippine government. This repression of trade unionists is a shameful attempt to silence people's rights and freedoms. More than ever, we must stand on the side of global human rights. — Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) November 15, 2019


What's Malacañang's take? For the Palace, it is enough that "operations were peaceful and precise that no individuals were hurt." Authorities, added Malacañang, "did not act rashly in any way" and conducted the raids based on intelligence reports.

Malacañang also said any claim of government abuse is false as those arrested during the raids were released "days" after the operations. It defended the raids as a matter of "national security," saying they were "necessary" to curb the possibility of "communist armed conflicts" in the Philippines.

Activists arrested during the raids were eventually charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, the usual charges against progressives, in what rights groups called an obvious pattern of a "Tokhang-style" crackdown on the Left.

Rights group Karapatan earlier said the firearms and explosives were planted.

What are local lawmakers saying? Aside from Sanders, lawmakers in the Philippines have also called out the government's crackdown on progressive groups, saying it has "no place in a democracy."

At least 64 members of the House of Representatives crossed party lines, signing a petition to "demand" an end to the "attacks" against progressive organizations, among them party-list groups represented by 6 Makabayan lawmakers currently serving in the 18th Congress.

They said, "We are united in expressing our concern on the attacks on the elected representatives, members, and supporters of the Makabayan bloc, and demand that these be stopped immediately." –

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at