Says UN experts' criticism based on 'wrong premise'
DAVAO CITY - The statement of two independent experts of the United Nations (UN) that President-elect Rodrigo Duterte is inciting violence with his comments on media killings is based on a "wrong premise," his spokesperson said Tuesday.
In a phone interview with ABS-CBN News, incoming presidential spokesperson Atty. Salvador Panelo insisted that Duterte never issued any statement justifying the killing of journalists.
Panelo added that the Davao City mayor condemns violence against members of the media and will prosecute anyone who violates the law.
"He condemns all killings, harming of journalists regardless who these personalities are, whether or not they are for or against any administration," Panelo said.
"He will not allow any killing or arming of journalists. He will prosecute to the fullest anyone who violates the law," he added.
David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, said justifying the murder of journalists based on how they conduct their professional activities sends a "permissive signal" to potential criminals that killing members of the media is "acceptable in certain circumstances and would not be punished."
"A message of this nature amounts to incitement to violence and killing, in a nation already ranked as the second-deadliest country for journalists," added Cristof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions.
"These comments are irresponsible in the extreme, and unbecoming of any leader, let alone someone who is to assume the position of the leader of a country that calls itself democratic."
READ: UN experts urge Duterte: Don't incite violence
Duterte last week received widespread criticisms after he stated during a press conference that many journalists in the Philippines are killed because they are corrupt.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) has called it "appalling" that Duterte justifies the murder of members of the media "by playing the corruption card."
The group stressed that "it is one thing to recognize a possible reason for murder; it is a totally different thing to present this as a justification for taking life."
Duterte's spokespersons, however, quickly came to the president-elect's defense, saying he was just again "taken out of context, misinterpreted and misunderstood."
"I did not think there was a mistake. I heard what he said last night. I was there. Walang mali sa sinabi niya. Sinasabi lang na ang personal knowledge of the case at saka ang logic na not because you're a journalist eh pinatay ka na dahil journalist ka," Panelo said.
In another press briefing later last week, Duterte said he will not apologize over his statements as he was just telling the truth.
"Huwag na tayong magbolahan, alam niyo yan. [There are] vultures pretending to be journalists. Ang problema dito, every son of a b**** who claim to be journalists make money, extorting money from people," he said.
READ: Duterte blasts 'vultures pretending to be journalists'
The 71-year-old Duterte, who will assume office on June 30, has since then vowed that he will "boycott" the press "until the end" of his term. - Report from Christian Esguerra, ABS-CBN News