Tourism chief: Robredo's claims, EJK reports make it hard to sell PH

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Vice President Leni Robredo (left), Department of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The spike in news about alleged extrajudicial killings in the country and Vice President Leni Robredo's claims are proving to be a challenge for Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo.

Teo said reports on deaths in the government's drug war and Robredo's remarks before the United Nations are making it difficult to promote the country as a tourist destination.

"With respect to VP Leni... Yung mga statements na ganun, nahihirapan kaming i-sell ang Philippines," Teo said during the Philippine delegates' press conference in Thailand on Wednesday.

[Translation: With respect to VP Leni... Those statements make it hard for us to sell the Philippines.]

Aside from calling out to Robredo, Teo also appealed to the media to soften their reports on the government's war against illegal drugs.

"Please, medyo i-tone down natin 'yung [let's tone down] extrajudicial killings because I'm always asked wherever I go even in Asia and Europe, 'Totoo ba ito?' and I would say it's safe in the PH and I would always ask them to come," she said.

In a video message aired during annual meeting of the 60th United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria last March 17, Vice President Leni Robredo claimed the "palit-ulo" scheme, which means "exchange heads," is done when the police takes into custody the partner or relative of a person On their so-called drug list if the person himself could not be found. The Philippine National Police on Monday confirmed the scheme's existence but disputed Robredo's definition.

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility meanwhile said the country's negative image is not the media's fault, unless it can be proven they are blowing things out of proportion.

"There is every reason to show EJK is happening and happening on a large scale,"  CMFR Chairman Vergel Santos said in a statement.

He added reporters are mere messengers, and authorities deserve the blame for their supposed failure to deal with perpetrators of the killings.

Before the suspension of the government's war against drugs on January 30, 2,538 drug suspects were killed and 52,521 people were arrested during legitimate police operations. More than 4,000 deaths were recorded due to vigilante-style killings.

The police relaunched the controversial war against illegal drugs on March 6.