MANILA - Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo on Friday said Amnesty International may have taken the country's national issues "out of context" in its latest report.
The rights group, in its annual report for 2017-18, noted the following issues in the Philippines: extrajudicial executions and summary killings, freedom of expression, human rights defenders, death penalty, internal armed conflict, torture and other ill-treatment, children's rights, right to health, and sexual and reproductive rights.
"AI may have taken these issues out of context," Panelo said in a statement.
Panelo maintained that there were no extrajudicial killings under the government's drug war and that the police killed their drug targets in self-defense.
"As for the spate of killings, there is no such thing as state-sponsored since the police has been following the strict protocols in arresting these drug-related criminals," he said.
"The true cause of this is that members of the drug syndicates are killing each other to prevent their competitors from informing the authorities which may lead to their arrest. As for those who were killed by the police, the same were made on the basis of self-defense when they employed unlawful means to resist arrest posing threat to the lives of the police officers."
The government has repeatedly denied involvement in summary killings, saying the nearly 4,000 drug suspects killed in police operations had put up violent resistance, prompting officers to defend themselves.
Human rights groups, however, have said the police figures are understated and does not include killings by alleged state-sponsored “vigilantes.”
Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa earlier rejected the report that said police officers have not been held to account for the killing of alleged drug offenders.
"Unfair naman 'yan kung totoong sinabi niyang ganun. Meron naman tayong imbestigasyon. May mga na-resolve na tayong kaso. Walang kabuluhan na imbestigasyon, e anong nangyari du'n sa mga pulis na nakakulong, mga kinasuhan at dinismiss?" Dela Rosa told radio DZMM.
Panelo also said that the president "does not prohibit journalists and critics from speaking their views on the policies and programs of this administration."
This after Rappler reporter Pia Ranada was barred from the entire Malacañang complex on Wednesday.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte has lost his trust with Ranada, which is why he has barred her from the Palace and other presidential events and gatherings.
Panelo, meanwhile, said that the martial law declaration in Mindanao was approved both by the Congress and the Supreme Court.
"Such concurrence only proves that the declaration and the extension of martial law are within the Constitutional mandates of the president," he said.
Regarding re-imposing the death penalty, Panelo said the Congress has the power to reinstate the measure if "it finds compelling reasons involving heinous crimes therefor."
Panelo did not comment on the following issues: torture and other ill-treatment, children's rights, human rights defenders, right to health, and sexual and reproductive rights.
AI cited the killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo and teens Kian delos Santos, Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman under the issue of extrajudicial executions and summary killings.
Meanwhile, it mentioned detained Sen. Leila de Lima and the threat to the Commission on Human Rights' budget to be reduced to only P1,000 under the issue of human-rights defenders.
The secret jail cell in Manila Police District Station 1 was also cited under the torture and other ill-treatment issue, along with allegations of human rights violations during the Marawi siege.
Duterte's stand on bringing down the age of criminal liability was also mentioned under the issue of children's rights.
The report also said the government's campaign against drugs "undermined people’s right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health."
The rights group, meanwhile, noted that Duterte signed an executive order to strengthen the implementation of the Reproductive Health Act of 2012.