National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Friday responded to the statement of Department of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo asking the media to “tone down” reports on extrajudicial killings in the country.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo on Wednesday urged the media to “tone down” their coverage of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, saying it was making it hard to sell the Philippines as a tourist destination
She addressed the same plea to Vice President Leni Robredo, who sent a video message last week to a UN gathering in Vienna denouncing the alleged summary execution of over 7,000 Filipinos in the antinarcotics campaign.
In a statement, the NUJP said Teo was right, and asked, “how, indeed, do you sell a tropical paradise when you have more than 7,000 deaths and counting and a leader who almost gleefully predicts even more as he wages his ‘war on drugs’?”
“Sadly, Ms. Teo, while we do wish for more tourists to visit and boost our economy, our job is to report what is happening, not sweep this under the rug as part of a PR campaign,” the NUJP said.
“It would be better if, instead of asking us to “tone down” the killings, you ask the President to order an end to them.
That way, we could truthfully report that the killing season is over and the Philippines is, well, “more fun,”” it added.
Critics have blamed Duterte for more than 7,000 deaths since he assumed office in July last year. However, the police said only about 2,500 of these were from antidrug operations after suspects allegedly violently resisted arrest.
They added about 40 were policemen or soldiers killed by drug suspects.
Most of the other deaths have been classified as Deaths Under Investigation, or DUI, which may include deaths not related to drugs or the war on drugs.
Amid the war on drugs, over one-million drug personalities have either surrendered or been arrested alive in thousands of anti-narcotics operations nationwide.
Meanwhile, Tourism Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre on Friday defended Teo, saying that the department chief’s remarks was only a “candid” response, and urged the people to look more on the whole context of her statement.
“I think naging candid lang siya, so to speak, noong tinanong siya (I think she was just candid, so to speak, when she was asked). Natural, every negative report affects tourism directly,” Alegre said.
“Ang importante, we are aware of the criticisms at mga reports. Hindi tumitigil ang DOT na magpromote na safe pumunta sa Pilipinas,” he added. (What’s important is that we are aware of the criticisms and the reports. The DOT isn’t stopping its promotion of the Philippines as a safe destination.)