Malacañang defends Duterte’s remarks on EJKs

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President Rodrigo R. Duterte — BW FILE PHOTO

By Camille A. Aguinaldo, Reporter

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte’s latest statement that his only “sin” was extrajudicial killings should not be taken seriously, Palace officials said on Friday.

In separate radio interviews, presidential spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. and chief presidential legal counsel Salvador S. Panelo clarified Mr. Duterte’s recent controversial remarks, which immediately drew reactions in the international community.

“Well, alam mo naman si Presidente, ano. Hindi na naman iyan seryoso ‘no. Sinasabi lang niya iyan, kasi nga palaging sinasabi iyan ang ginagawa niya ano. Pero it’s also na dinidiin lang niya na talagang hindi siya nagnanakaw, pero I don’t think na ang konteksto niyan ay literal,” Mr. Roque said in a DZRH radio interview.

(Well, we all know the President, that is not serious. He is just saying that this has always been pressed on him. But he’s only emphasizing that he is not a thief. I don’t think that the context is literal.)

For his part, Mr. Panelo said an interview with DWFM radio: “Alam mo, hindi pupuwedeng hindi natin seryosohin iyon….Ang ibig sabihin ni Presidente, ang isyu lang sa akin na tinatapon ay iyong extrajudicial killing. Iyon ang kasalanan kong sinasabi ninyong kasalanan ko. Hindi iyong inaamin-kasi you have to look it in the context of, one, Bisaya iyan si Presidente. Hindi naman ito Manileño eh.”

(You know, we should not take this seriously….What the President meant is that extrajudicial killing has always been thrown at him. ‘This is the sin that people are saying is my sin.’ That is not an admission because you have to look it in the context that the President is Bisaya. He is not Manileño.)

“‘Ang isyu lang sa akin ay iyong extrajudicial killing.’ Iyon ang ibig niyang sabihin ng kasalanan (‘The only issue with me is the extrajudicial killing.’ That is what he meant with the sin),” Mr. Panelo added.

Mr. Duterte made the controversial statement in his speech during the oathtaking of new career executive service officers at the Malacañang Palace on Thursday.

“Ano kasalanan ko? Nagnakaw ba ako d’yan ni piso? Did I prosecute somebody na pinakulong ko? Ang kasalanan ko lang ‘yung mga extrajudicial killings,” he said.

(What is my fault? Did I steal money, even a single peso? Did I prosecute somebody whom I ordered jailed? My only fault is the extrajudicial killings.)

In his radio interview, Mr. Roque dismissed claims that what the President has said may be “self-incriminating,” as many observers believed it was an admission of guilt over the controversial spate of killings in the country, which could be used as evidence in his pending case before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“In the first place, hindi naman iyan isang sinumpaang salaysay ‘no, so paano sasabihing self-incriminating iyan? Hindi po. That’s the President po being himself, being playful, being… highlighting the point na hindi siya corrupt,” Mr. Roque said.

(In the first place, that is not a sworn statement so how is it self-incriminating? No, it’s not. That’s the President being himself, being playful, being… highlighting the point that he is not corrupt.)

For his part, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Oscar D. Albayalde denied there were extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs. He also noted that the PNP has been “equally tough” as well to cops who had gone overboard in their official functions with its record of 555 dismissed policemen since 2016 over drug-related offenses and 89 policemen over human rights violations.

“Despite noisy criticisms of the few, there’s no such thing as ‘extra-judicial killing’ in the war on drugs since it has never been ‘state-sponsored,’” Mr. Albayalde said in a statement.

Personalities and groups in the international community have also taken notice of Mr. Duterte’s statements as well.

“Extraordinary statement by a Head of State (and we have had many this week at the UN): my only ‘sin’ is #EJK. Translation: my only sin is imposing unthinkable sufferings on 1000s of vulnerable families, emboldening corrupt policing, destroying the rule of law,” UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard said over Twitter.

Human Rights Watch Asia Division Director Brad Adams said in a statement: “The admission by President Rodrigo Duterte that he has committed a ‘sin’ because of the extrajudicial killings committed in his ‘drug war’ should prod the International Criminal Court to speed up its consideration of the cases filed against him for the killing of thousands of Filipinos. This admission should erase any doubt about the culpability of the president.”

“It is time for Duterte to answer for what may amount to crimes against humanity, especially because the killings continue to happen on a daily basis, more than two years since the brutal campaign started the day Duterte took office on June 30, 2016,” he added.

In an interview with reporters, Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV said he will submit the necessary documents related to Mr. Duterte’s statements to the ICC as he called on the international court to expedite its investigation on the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

“Those remarks uttered in unguarded moments, those are the bits of truth that come out of Duterte. That admission will be taken seriously by the International Criminal Court,” Mr. Trillanes said.

The ICC last February said it would start its preliminary examination to determine if an investigation is needed regarding Mr. Duterte’s alleged crimes against humanity in connection with the war on drugs.

The international court’s moves were prompted by complaints filed by lawyer Jude Sabio, Mr. Trillanes, and Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary C. Alejano against the President.