Roque: Local officials’ murders not related to war on drugs
The recent murders of local executives cannot be blamed on the war against illegal drugs, as extra-legal killings have plagued the country even during the Arroyo administration, Malacañang said.
This comment was issued in reaction to speculations that the murders of local officials may be linked to those taking advantage of the government’s anti-narcotics drive to besmirch President Duterte’s reputation.
“That is just a speculation because the problems of killings were exposed by former United Nations special rapporteur Philip Alston. So during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, we already had a problem with extra-legal killings,” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
He added: “So the extra-legal killings cannot be blamed on the war on drugs, since this has been present in our society.”
Roque made the remarks a day after Sapa-Sapa, Tawi-Tawi Vice Mayor Al Rashid Mohammad Ali was shot dead in Zamboanga City on Wednesday.
Ali is the fourth local official to be killed this month, which began with the assassination of Tanauan City mayor Antonio Halili last July 2. Days later, Gen. Tinio, Nueva Ecija mayor Ferdinand Bote was gunned down inside his vehicle last July 3. This was followed by the ambush that killed Trece Martires vice mayor Alex Lubigan last July 7.
Activists have blamed the “culture of impunity” that allow crime to go unpunished for the spate of extra-judicial killings.
Malacañang, however, refused to link the recent killings to the war against illegal drugs, since not all the local officials are involved in the illegal drugs trade.
“Whether or not we have the war on drugs, that will continue. The killings in our society now that elections are nearing have always been there,” Roque said.
He recognized the efforts of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in investigating and solving the murders, especially the recent apprehension of suspects in Halili’s murder.
Roque also warned that the “political season” has begun, with the May 2019 midterm polls just months away. “It seems it’s now political season, and there are so many political-related killings,” he said.
Roque assured the public that President Duterte has promised to “speedily investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of these killings.”
He pointed to police statistics saying that the number of homicides were actually on the decline. “If you look at the statistics, the number of homicides has actually declined. There are just some prominent people being targeted,” Roque said.
He added: “This means that even though many high profile cases are being reported, the number of killings in our society is actually going down.”
Meanwhile, Malacañang welcomed Sri Lanka’s move to replicate the Philippines’ success in its war against illegal drugs as recognition of the Philippines’ “best practices.”
“We are happy that other countries have taken note of our war on drugs and that they look on us as a best practice on dealing with illegal drugs,” Roque said.
Earlier, Sri Lanka announced that it will start executing drug dealers by hanging and promised to replicate the Philippines’ success in its anti-narcotics drive. /ee
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