'One death is too many': Palace says killings 'being addressed'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 07 2017 12:47 PM | Updated as of Oct 07 2017 12:49 PM

But Malacañang backs police statement that no extrajudicial killing has been recorded under the Duterte administration

MANILA - "One death is too many." 

Malacañang on Saturday said recent killings are "being addressed" even as it backed an earlier statement by the Philippine National Police (PNP) that no extrajudicial killing (EJK) has been recorded under President Rodrigo Duterte's administration. 

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that the government was addressing cases of unexplained killings while maintained that none could be called an EJK as defined by an administrative order issued during the Aquino administration.

The government has repeatedly asserted that it does not sanction killings under the drug war and that drug suspects killed in police operations had put up violent resistance. 

"We wish to emphasize that one death is one too many," Abella said in a statement. 

"Regardless of this definition, these deaths are being addressed to ensure the accountability of perpetrators, even as it calls upon witnesses and individuals who can provide valuable evidence that will lead to [the] speedy resolution of cases," he added. 

The PNP had said Friday that no case of an EJK has been recorded since July last year, when Duterte took power and initiated the fierce anti-narcotics campaign. 

This after retracting an earlier statement that there was one recorded case. 

The PNP cited guidelines of Administrative Order No. 35 issued by former President Benigno Aquino III, which defined EJKs as killings where “the victim was a member of, or affiliated with an organization, to include political, environmental, agrarian, labor, or similar causes; or an advocate of above-named causes; or a media practitioner or person(s) apparently mistaken or identified to be so.” 

Under the order, a killing could be classified as extrajudicial if “the victim was targeted and killed because of the actual or perceived membership, advocacy, or profession; or the person/s responsible for the killing is a state agent or non-state agent; and the method and circumstances of attack reveal a deliberate intent to kill,” Abella said.

"AO 35 has not been repealed or revoked; thus, the definition of EJK remains the same," Abella said. 

Latest police estimates placed the number of drug suspects slain in legitimate police operations at 3,800. Human rights groups, however, place the death toll at 13,000, a figure that the administration has described as overblown.

Data from the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group meanwhile show that a total of 4,226 drug-fatalities were reported from May 10, 2016 to Oct. 3, 2017, including those killed in police operations (2,441), those killed by unidentified assailants (1,537), and bodies found away from the crime scene (248).

The figures were compiled from websites of PNP regional offices, and national and local news reports.

In August, Duterte reminded police officers that unlawful killings were not allowed, following the spate of teen killings in suspicious police operations.

He has brushed aside international criticism against his drug war, saying police operations were all above board as he emphasized the magnitude of the country's drug problem.

The influential Catholic Church has mobilized against reported drug slays, with police officers reportedly coming forward to testify on alleged summary killings.

Malacañang meanwhile cautioned the Church against giving them sanctuary, saying the clergy should “exercise due diligence as there are drug protectors, kidnappers, kotong and ninja cops who want to destroy the ongoing campaign against illegal drugs.”