MANILA (UPDATE) - Malacañang on Friday came to the defense of President Rodrigo Duterte after the latter said his “only sin” was extrajudicial killings, a term which refers to not legally sanctioned executions being linked to the government’s war on drugs.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the President must not be talking seriously when he made this statement.
“Alam mo naman si Presidente, ano. Hindi na naman iyan seryoso ‘no… I don’t think na ang konteksto niyan ay literal,” Roque told dzRH.
(You know the President. We know he was not serious about it... I don't think that should be taken literally.)
Duterte did not expound what he meant by his statement, 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.
The President then assailed International Criminal Court officials for taking a complaint against him for the killings linked to his war on drugs.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, meanwhile, offered another explanation to the President's controversial statement. He said what the President was probably trying to say was that the sole criticism that can be brought up against him are the killings linked to the war on drugs.
"Ang ibig niyang sabihin, ‘ang isyu lang laban sa akin ay extrajudicial killings.’ Iyon ang ibig sabihin nun. Alam mo, Bisaya si Presidente," Panelo told dwFM.
(What he meant was that the only issue that can be brought up against him was on extrajudicial killings. You see, the President is a Bisaya.)
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.
But Roque, a lawyer, said Duterte’s statement was not self-incriminating.
“In the first place, hindi naman iyan isang sinumpaang salaysay ‘no, so paano sasabihing self-incriminating iyan. Hindi po. That’s the President po being himself, being playful, being… highlighting the point na hindi siya corrupt,” he said.
(In the first place, it was not a sworn statement, so how can it be self-incriminating? That's the President being himself, being playful, highlighting the point that he is not corrupt.)
“Tingin ko po, iyan ay hina-highlight niya na never, never siyang nagnakaw. Pinupulaan siya ng EJK pero hindi po siya napupulaan na magnanakaw siya.”
(I think the point he was trying to drive at was that he is not corrupt. He can be criticized for the extrajudicial killings, but he cannot be criticized for being corrupt.)
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 Thursday, 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.