MANILA, Philippines – After an International Criminal Court (ICC) said it is "closely watching" the Philippines' war on drugs, Malacañang reiterated its stance that the Duterte government does not sanction extrajudicial killings.
"Drug-related killings, including vigilante killings, are not state-sanctioned," Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement on Friday, October 14.
"Many of those who died were killed during legitimate police operations," Andanar said.
Philippine National Police data show that more than half of the roughly 3,800 recorded deaths were victims of extrajudicial killings. The rest were deaths in anti-drug police operations.
Andanar said the unlawful killings are "currently undergoing investigation as directed by the President." (READ: Duterte: We will investigate mysterious killings)
To back up the Palace claim, Andanar cited the recently concluded Senate investigation on extrajudicial killings initially led by Senator Leila de Lima – the fiercest critic of President Rodrigo Duterte – until Duterte's allies in the Senate replaced her as chair of the Senate investigating panel.
Senator Richard Gordon, the new chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, concluded that the 6 hearings failed to prove that Duterte or the government sponsored the executions. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, however, accused Gordon of “covering up” the role of the Duterte administration in the spate of extrajudicial killings.
Gordon also claimed there is still rule of law in the country, contrary to the statements of local and international critics and human rights advocates. (READ: UN: Duterte lacks understanding of human rights institutions)
Whatever the case, Malacañang said Duterte is "willing to submit himself for an investigation before any body," as shown by the government's letter of invitation sent to United Nations Special Rapporteur for summary executions, Agnes Callamard, to probe killings in the country.
The invitation, however, comes with a condition: Duterte can propound questions to the UN investigator who would be directed to swear under oath. The Philippine leader had said that he would "humiliate" any investigator from the UN, the US, or the European Union – critics his bloody war on drugs – with his questions.
Apart from determining if the government is behind the extrajudicial killings, the ICC expressed deep concern for "public statements of high officials" which "seem to condone such killings" and "encourage State forces and civilians" to kill drug suspects.
In his televised speeches, Duterte frequently declares his desire to kill criminals and has vowed to protect police and military who kill suspects, as long as the suspect resists arrest violently or poses a danger to their lives. (READ: Duterte to troops: Massacre criminals, I'll promote you)
He has blamed media for editing his statements such that only his threats, and not his call to abide by the rules of engagement, are televised.
Duterte has said it it is not against Philippine law for him to threaten criminals.
He has also taken full responsibility for deaths that occur during legitimate police operations but insists the vigilante-style killings are the work of criminals. – Rappler.com