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Palace defends PNP claim of zero EJKs

/ 07:17 AM October 08, 2017
Ernesto Abella

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC

One death is one too many.

Malacañang on Saturday vowed to investigate any confirmed case of extrajudicial killing in the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs as it defended the police claim of zero EJKs in the country.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the administration wanted to hold to account all those responsible for the killings, whether EJK or not.

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He said the Philippine National Police was only following the rules — Administrative Order No. 35, issued in 2012 — when it announced that there had been no such cases in the country since July 1, 2016, when President Duterte assumed office.

Overwhelming number

The PNP statement was issued amid alarm over the thousands of deaths in police antidrug operations. It followed a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey that showed 73 percent of Filipinos fear becoming victims of EJKs.

An overwhelming number — 90 percent — also believe drug suspects should be captured alive.

According to Abella, AO 35 defines EJKs as killings where “the victim was a member of, or affiliated with an organization, to include political, environmental, agrarian, labor, or similar causes; or an advocate of above-named causes; or a media practitioner or person(s) apparently mistaken or identified to be so.”

The order also states that EJKs refer to incidents where “the victim was targeted and killed because of the actual or perceived membership, advocacy, or profession; or the person/s responsible for the killing is a state agent or nonstate agent; and the method and circumstances of attack reveal a deliberate intent to kill.”

‘Definition remain the same’

Abella said AO 35 had neither been repealed nor revoked, “thus the definition of EJK remains the same.”

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Nevertheless, he said, the government would investigate the killings, whatever their nature, and appealed to the public for help.

“Having said that, we wish to emphasize that one death is one too many. Regardless of this definition, these deaths are being addressed to ensure the accountability of perpetrators, even as it calls upon witnesses and individuals who can provide valuable evidence that will lead to [the] speedy resolution of cases,” he said.

Based on police records, some 3,850 people have been slain in antidrug operations after fighting it out with authorities. Thousands more deaths allegedly perpetrated by vigilantes are under investigation.

The President has denied that it is state policy to execute drug suspects. He explained that his instruction to policemen was to defend themselves if met with violent resistance.

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TAGS: drug killings, Ernesto Abella, extrajudicial killings, PNP‎, war on drugs
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