Duterte to UN experts: ‘Wrong premise’ on media killings

Bea Cupin
Duterte to UN experts: ‘Wrong premise’ on media killings
Duterte says, 'My duty as president is to uphold and enforce the law and I will pursue and prosecute these killers to the hilt in accordance with law'

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President-elect Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, June 8, hit United Nations (UN) experts for supposedly releasing a statement “anchored on the wrong premise.” 

“Go home and get some sleep. You are overworked and sound beat. Your statement is anchored on the wrong premise,” Duterte said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. 

“I do not condone nor tolerate killing of journalists regardless of the motive of the killers or the reason for their killing. My duty as president is to uphold and enforce the law and I will pursue and prosecute these killers to the hilt in accordance with law, and I will be – as I have been – protective of the rights of journalists, and for that matter of any citizen, of the Republic,” added Duterte, who will take his oath of office on June 30 yet. 

On Wednesday, two special rapporteurs from the UN took exception to statements Duterte made during press conferences, when asked about media killings. 

Duterte reasoned out that some media practitioners were killed not because of their work but because they were corrupt. “You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong, said the Davao city mayor in a statement that many interpreted as an “endorsement” of media killings. 

Christof Heyns, special rapporteur on summary executions, and David Kaye, the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, both criticized the incoming Philippine president for the “irresponsible” statements and for “justifying” the killings of journalists. 

The Philippines is the second most dangerous country for media practitioners.  

But Duterte insisted he never justified the killing of journalists. 

“I never said that killing journalists is justified because they are involved in corruption. What I said is that you don’t have to be a journalist to be the subject of an assassination,” he said. 

Journalism not for extortionists, criminals

“There are many cases where journalists are killed by reason of their advocacies but there are those who are killed because they take sides and accept bribes and renege on their commitments. The noble vocation of journalism does not apply to extortionists and criminals,” Duterte said in the statement.

The controversial and often foul-mouthed mayor later expanded his statement on media killings, telling reporters in a press conference that there were 3 classifications of journalists

He said there are those who are honest, those who serve as mouthpieces of vested interests, and those who are corrupt, or the “vultures.” 

“By chance, do they know the rule on fair play and the right to be heard? It seems to me you are more adept at fumigation, sometimes aka as foul or idiocy,” added Duterte, hitting both Heynes and Kaye. 

Duterte has long been plagued by allegations of extra-judicial killings under his watch as Davao City mayor. He has been linked to the so-called “Davao Death Squad”, a supposed group of vigilantes who execute suspected criminals in the city. 

On the campaign trail, Duterte repeatedly emphasized his promise to eradicate – or suppress – crime in the country in “3 to 6 months.” 

His recent press conferences, two held in succession right after he was proclaimed by Congress, triggered waves of controversy. Aside from his statements on media killings, Duterte was criticized for catcalling a television reporter during a late-night press conference. 

Duterte would later clarify that he did not mean anything “sexual” with the act. 

The president-elect has since chosen to “boycott” the media, saying that less interviews granted means less mistakes being committed. – Rappler.com


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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.