MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said the recent spate of killings of mayors and vice mayors cannot be blamed on the Duterte administration and its anti-drugs campaign.
"Panahon pa po ni GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), may problema na tayo sa extrajudicial killings so hindi po masisisi sa war on drugs ang extrajudicial killings. Nariyan na po 'yan sa ating lipunan," said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque on Thursday, July 12.
(We've have this problem of extrajudicial killings since the time of GMA [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] so the extrajudicial killings can't be blamed on the war on drugs. It's been there in our society.)
Roque made the statement in a news conference a day after Vice Mayor Al Rashid Mohammad Ali of Sapa-Sapa, Tawi-Tawi, was shot dead in Zamboanga City.
Ali is the 4th local official to be killed in more than a week, and the 16th killed during President Rodrigo Duterte's term. (READ: Mayors, vice mayors killed under Duterte gov't)
Roque attributed the killings of local politicians to the upcoming election season.
"Whether or not we have the war on drugs, the killings would have happened especially now that we are nearing elections," said Roque in Filipino.
During the briefing, a reporter pointed out to Roque that Ali was killed in Mindanao despite the implementation of martial law in the region, which was supposedly meant to ensure security from these types of crimes.
"We can't say that because it looks like it's really political season," Roque said in response.
Duterte's spokesman dismissed as mere "speculation" the fears that Duterte's kill threats and deadly campaign against illegal drugs has emboldened persons to order the assassination of their enemies.
But while mayors and vice mayors were killed under previous administrations, the number of killings of local officials during only two years and one month of the Duterte presidency has alarmed many.
In the first two weeks of Duterte's 3rd year in power alone, 4 local officials were killed. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.