MANILA – Malacañang on Thursday assured the public that President Rodrigo Duterte would not promote taking legal shortcuts and extralegal means in achieving his desire to rid the country of crime.
In a speech earlier this week, Duterte lamented the slow judicial process in the Philippines and suggested that warrants of arrest are no longer relevant in dispensing justice, especially now that about 600,000 drug users and pushers have surrendered under his administration.
Duterte's speech bolstered fears that the president is willing to skirt the judicial process in his crusade against drugs.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Duterte recognizes the vast illegal drugs problem, which is why he wants to hasten the process without necessarily cutting corners.
''From experience he knows that the process really takes quite some time. We really live in extraordinary times, 600,000 people surrendering, isn't that amazing? This is where he is coming from,'' Abella said in a press briefing.
''There's no lawful process being shortcut here. He is simply saying that these are persons of interest and these persons of interest, considering the depth and breadth of the problem, should come out and make proper presentation of their personal cases."
Abella said the government will soon announce how it will deal with the vast number of drug suspects who have turned themselves in to the police.
He also assured that the National Police Commission has already asked the Philippine National Police to address complaints that some of those who surrendered ended up being killed.
Human rights groups have raised the alarm about the rising number of drug killings in the country.
Duterte, who has been accused of tolerating vigilante killings as mayor of Davao City, has never been shy to declare willingness to employ violent means in order to solve the drug problem.
But Abella said there is no place for extrajudicial killings under the Duterte government.
"He has made statements again and again. He has said he has never ordered those things," he said.
Data gathered by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group showed there have been 943 drug-related fatalities from May 10 to August 10.
Of the total number, 567 were killed in police operations while 294 were killed by unidentified assailants. Some 82 were suspected victims of summary executions.