Palace clarifies: Duterte 'not serious' about extrajudicial killings remark

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 28) — President Rodrigo Duterte's officials clarified his remark that his only sin is extrajudicial killings in the country.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Friday said the President's pronouncements should not be taken literally.

"Well, alam mo naman si Presidente, ano. Hindi na naman iyan seryoso 'no," he said in an interview with radio station DZRH Friday morning.

Roque said Duterte only pointed out that he was not a corrupt leader, which was the context of the remark.

"Sinasabi lang niya iyan, kasi nga palaging sinasabi iyan ang ginagawa niya ano. Pero it's also na dinidiin lang niya na talagang hindi siya nagnanakaw, pero I don't think na ang konteksto niyan ay literal," he said.

In another radio interview with station DWFM, minutes after that with DZRH, Roque gave another answer.

"Wala ako doon kahapon, nasa kasal po ako kahapon. So, sa totoo lang po, I've been asked, but I cannot comment kasi nga wala po ako nung panahon na iyon," he said.

Duterte on Thursday said he isn't guilty of corruption, but his only sin are extrajudicial killings in the country.

"Ano kasalanan ko? Nagnakaw ba ko diyan ni piso?... Ang kasalanan ko lang, yung mga extrajudicial killing," Duterte said in a speech during the recognition of career service professionals in Malacañang on Thursday.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sal Panelo said Duterte was merely responding to the EJK accusations.

"Ang ibig sabihin ng Presidente, ang tanging kasalanan niya ay 'yung akusasyon sa kaniya tungkol sa EJK," he said.

He added the misunderstanding stemmed from difference in language.

"Bisaya si presidente, hindi naman 'yan Manileño," he said.

Philippine National Police Chief Oscar Albayalde said the President might have said it "out of frustration."

"Alam niyo naman yung political atmosphere sa ating bansa. Since wala nang maibato sa kanya, ito na lang, paulit-ulit na, history na kumbaga ito at inuungkat na lang nang inuungkat yung word na EJK," he said in a media briefing Friday. 

Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay in a tweet called on the International Criminal Court, which is looking into alleged extrajudicial killings in the country, to take note of Duterte's latest pronouncement.

"Here's the President of the Republic of the Philippines, making a public admission of crimes under your jurisdiction. Please act ASAP," Hilbay said.

Local and international human rights groups have criticized the government's bloody war on drugs, which they said resulted in more than 13,000 EJKs. Government data show more than 4,000 were killed in anti-drug operations, but Malacañang has repeatedly said these were not state-sanctioned.

While there is no clear-cut definition of extrajudicial killings, Malacañang in October 2017 said it still follows the operational guidelines of Administrative Order No. 35, which created an inter-agency committee on extralegal killings in 2012.

Under this order, a killing is considered extrajudicial when "the victim was targeted and killed because of the actual or perceived membership, advocacy, or profession."

Using the same definition, Albayalde said there are no EJKs in the drug war and that the police were never ordered to kill.

"Wala pong binigay sa amin na order whatsoever na para pumatay, even ng mga suspects, even ng mga drug dependents, or even ng mga criminals," he said.

He blamed rogue cops for some of the deaths but said they have dismissed 262 of them for drug-related offenses and 89 for human rights violations.