Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo on Wednesday lashed out at a UK group for blaming the deaths of land and environmental activists on President Rodrigo Duterte, calling it a “purveyor of falsity.”

Panelo also said the report by Global Witness titled, “Defending the Philippines,” which cited the killings of 113 “land and environmental defenders,” was a rehash of a July 2019 report that became the subject of a New York Times editorial last month.

“The Palace considers the UK-based group Global Witness as a purveyor of falsity and a subservient machinery for political propaganda. There is nothing new to its sham assertion which mimics the recurring chants of the usual derogators of [President Duterte],” Panelo said.

“Global Witness has once again made it appear that it is the Duterte Administration which is the raison d’etre for the situation befalling these land and environmental defenders. Take a look at page 27 of the report, with one of its illustrations as the Sagay incident, where it blamed the agents of the State for what happened to the farmers but deliberately failing or consciously omitting the local communist movement and armed conflicts as critical components of those deaths,” he said.

“As I previously pointed out, many of our local authorities, security forces, and even tribal leaders died protecting land rights against communist insurgents who want to control these areas. Necessarily, the President, pursuant to his primordial and constitutional duty of serving and protecting the people, had to undertake measures to maintain peace and order in the affected localities,” he added.

Founded in 1993, London-based Global Witness says on its website that it protects human rights and the environment “by fearlessly confronting corruption and challenging the systems that enable it.”

In its report, Global Witness said: “Duterte’s government must comply with international law and take action to prevent abuses of land rights and of the environment, protect defenders at risk, and hold the perpetrators of intimidation and violence to account.”

“Those doing business in the Philippines must also recognize their role in facilitating violence – whether through proactive strategies, turning a blind eye, or simply negligence – and clean up their acts or be held accountable,” it said.

“Consumers can play a part too – by demanding that the fruit they buy or the hotel they stay in isn’t associated with bloodshed, and by demanding that their government take a stand to enable those defending their land and our environment to do so without fearing for their lives,” it added. (

Thumbnail photo: Screen grab from Global Witness website