Incoming presidential spokesman: Two teen deaths count as EJKs

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  • Roque: Police 'have to accept' they don't define EJKs
  • Policemen tagged in Kian, Carl deaths under restrictive custody, not arrest
  • Roque says he will ask proof of 'nanlaban' cases from police
  • Roque may have a concurrent position

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 1) — Incoming Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque believes two controversial teen deaths qualify as extrajudicial killings.

Roque told CNN Philippines on Wednesday these are the cases of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos and 19-year-old Carl Arnaiz, who died at the hands of Caloocan policemen in August.

"I do not know if there are thousands [of EJKs], but I know that the President has ordered for the arrest of the killers of Kian and Carl. I think Kian and Carl, without a doubt, are instances of extra-legal killings," said Roque.

Extra-legal killings is the internationally accepted term for extrajudicial killings.

The policemen involved in both deaths have no arrest warrants yet. They are, however, under restrictive custody as they face complaints of murder at the Department of Justice.

A human rights advocate, Roque said that as spokesperson, he would ask the police to provide evidence to back common claims that casualties in the drug war fought back.

Related: Harry Roque is new Duterte spokesman

"But without evidence, then I'm going to say, well General Bato, the President said in Kian's case that he will stand by his policemen if their engagement is legal. If not, then he will ask that they be arrested. So if there is no evidence na nanlaban [that they fought back], why haven't you arrested them? Because that's the mandate of the President," he added.

The stance of the newly appointed spokesperson differs from Malacanang Palace's previous defense of police claims that there are no cases of extra-legal or extrajudicial killings in the drug war.

Outgoing Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella cited Administrative Order No. 35, which defines extrajudicial killings as when "the victim was targeted and killed because of the actual or perceived membership, advocacy, or profession."

Critics of the administration have pointed out that the administrative order was a guideline, and not a definitive standard for extrajudicial killings.

"There is an accepted definition by the international community and the Supreme Court," said Roque. "The police will have to accept the fact that they don't make the definitions."

While there is no law yet defining extrajudicial killings in the country, there is a 2007 Supreme Court ruling stating extra-legal killings cover suspects killed without due process.

In the Writ of Amparo, the high court wrote the definition included "the illegal taking of life regardless of the motive, summary and arbitrary executions, 'salvagings' even of suspected criminals."

Roque also said these killings were part of a "culture of impunity" that began under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's term.

Police have recorded about 4,000 deaths in police operations since President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial war on drugs was launched last year. However, human rights advocates list as many as 13,000 deaths, including those slayed in vigilante-style killings.

Concurrent position for Roque?

Roque also hinted on Wednesday there may be something more for him apart from the position of spokesperson.

"There's something that Sec. Bong Go and I discussed which he agreed to. It will be announced in due course," said Roque.

When asked if it was a concurrent position, he replied, "If I answer that, you already know the answer."

Roque previously expressed interest in providing advice to Duterte regarding human rights issues surrounding the drug war.

Related: Roque as spokesperson hopes to advise Duterte on drug war

The appointment of the House Deputy Minority Leader and Kabayan Party-List Representative was announced on October 27. He has yet to resign from his position in Congress.

While Roque has not yet taken an oath of office, his first press briefing is scheduled on Thursday, and his first Cabinet meeting is set on November 6.