MANILA- Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that he did not order killings of suspected drug users.
Dela Rosa was among those present at the high tribunal's oral arguments on petitions against the government's war on drugs.
Asked by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen whether he issued a kill order to policemen, Dela Rosa said he "never" did. He also denied instructing police officers to kill drug addicts.
The police chief also clarified that his use of the word "neutralize" did not only mean "to kill."
"Neutralize has a lot of meanings according to police operational procedure -- arrest, having the suspect surrender or killing the suspect at a very extreme situation as a result of legitimate police operation," Dela Rosa said.
Petitioners challenging the constitutionality of the government's drug war have alleged that the PNP Command Memorandum Circular No. 16 – 2016 for Oplan Double Barrel, the PNP's anti-drug campaign, expressly authorized troops to kill suspected drug personalities.
Lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, one of the counsels of the petitioners, had earlier said that Dela Rosa had used "neutralize" to mean "kill."
"They have no counterpart in law but in police parlance, as used no less by than the PNP chief himself, to neutralize means to kill," Diokno said.
In defense of the PNP, Solicitor General Jose Calida said petitioners had a "skewed" interpretation of the word "neutralize."
"Viewed in their purely legal context, these terms should not be construed as synonymous to extrajudicial killings but as a comprehensive term that includes to subdue, incapacitate, arrest and in the most extreme case--when the life of the police officer is in danger--to kill," Calida said.