MANILA, Philippines – In response to remarks of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the Palace emphasized that the Duterte administration does not sanction extrajudicial killings.
"Notwithstanding the accusations hurled against him, no formal charge of human rights violations has been filed. Alleged EJKs (extrajudicial killings) are not the policy of his administration," said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella in a statement released to media on Wednesday, September 14.
The statement was prompted by Zeid calling President Rodrigo Duterte out for his supposed "lack of understanding of our human rights institutions and the principles which keep societies safe."
Zeid mentioned Duterte during a speech delivered at the opening of the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Abella said Duterte, a lawyer and former prosecutor, "knows the limits of the power and authority of the presidency."
He repeated Duterte's words during his inauguration, in which he promised his adherence to due process and the rule of law is "uncompromising."
Abella also described the President as a "respecter of human rights" who, nonetheless, has emphasized that human rights "cannot be used as an excuse to let the spread of drugs in the country run rampant."
The spokesman did not touch on Zeid's call for the Philippines to invite Agnes Callamard – the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions – to further investigate the drug war.
In his speech, Zeid accused Duterte for promoting a culture of injustice through his colorful threats to kill criminals even without due process.
“Empowering police forces to shoot to kill any individual whom they claim to suspect of drug crimes, with or without evidence, undermines justice," said the human rights chief.
“The people of the Philippines have a right to judicial institutions that are impartial, and operate under due process guarantees," he added.
As of September 14, 3,526 persons have been killed in the Philippines' drug war. Of this, more than half – 2,035 – were victims of extrajudicial killings.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.