A recent survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) says that Filipinos enjoy “very strong” freedom of speech and expression. This directly refutes accusations made by critics that the Duterte administration is curtailing such rights.
In a statement released last Saturday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo spoke on the SWS survey conducted from June 22 to 26. The survey shows that 59% of Filipinos agree with the statement, “I can say anything I want, openly and without fear, even if it is against the administration.”
In the same survey, 67% of Filipinos concurred that there is freedom of the press.
“The survey results once again are a repudiation of the vociferous and unrelenting tirade of the critics and detractors of the President, as well as the opposition, that the freedoms of speech and of expression are being curtailed by the Administration,” said Panelo.
“The survey rating means we have a vibrant and robust exercise of those freedoms.”
Hearing out the 3%
Panelo explains that dissent against the current administration is “loud and not curtailed.” However, they note that this comes from the 3% of Filipinos who expressed their disapproval of the President.
“The President respects criticisms as long as the same is not baseless, unfounded or false. He even urges the people, including writers and reporters, to freely express whatever sentiments they have,” said Panelo.
He added that there “is no such prior restraint or subsequent punishment for those who practice the freedom to dissent in the Duterte presidency. As long as the speech or expression is within the ambit of the constitutional guarantees, it will not face any government interference.”
Panelo also said that all Filipinos should not hesitate in articulating their thoughts on government policies, as he explains that President Duterte “is a President who not only respects everyone’s right to free speech.” And that the President also “listens to our plight as he ensures that the fibers of our country’s democracy are preserved and enhanced.”