MANILA (UPDATED) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said his “only sin” was “extra-judicial killings" (EJKs), which refers to not legally sanctioned executions being linked to the government’s war on drugs.
“Ako, I will talk to a political exercise now. What are your sins? Ako? Sabi ko nga sa military, ano kasalanan ko? Nagnakaw ba ako dyan ni piso? Did I prosecute na pinakulong ko? Ang kasalanan ko lang, yung mga extra-judicial killings,” Duterte said in a speech in Malacañang.
Duterte did not expound what he meant, which was said in the context of him slamming opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan for crafting a law that raised the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
He then assailed International Criminal Court (ICC) officials for taking a complaint against him for killings linked to his war on drugs.
The President, in previous speeches, had acknowledged the existence of extra-judicial killings, but he had insisted these were not state-sponsored.
In his speech today, he also acknowledged that some so-called “ninja cops” are behind these killings.
“It’s an organized crime, really,” he said.
At least 4,854 drug suspects have been killed in police anti-drug operations, but human rights groups and government critics say this figure is understated.
They suspect that killings carried out by so-called “vigilante groups” were also state-sponsored, citing cases where some policemen were caught in illegitimate operations.
Agnes Callamard, United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, called Duterte's statement "extraordinary."
"Extraordinary statement by a Head of State (and we have had many this week at the UN): my 'only' sin is #EJK. Translation: my only sin is imposing unthinkable sufferings on 1000s of vulnerable families, emboldening corrupt policing, destroying rule of law," she said.
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, in a tweet, also called the attention of the ICC regarding Duterte's statement.
"Here's the President of the Republic of the Philippines, making a public admission of crimes under your jurisdiction. Please act ASAP.
Thank you," he said.
Lawyer Edwin Lacierda, former spokesperson of then President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, said Duterte's statement is a confession.
"An acquaintance who practices international human rights abroad once remarked to me that PH is the only country where the president & his ministers practically admit to killings. To him, It makes the work of the ICC easier. This is one such confession," Lacierda said in a tweet.