Panelo on EJK ‘admission’: Duterte is Visayan, not adept at Filipino
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Sunday offered a new explanation for what appeared to be President Duterte’s admission of responsibility for extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in his brutal war on drugs: The President is a Visayan and cannot express himself clearly in Filipino, the national language.
Human rights activists and opponents of the President called for legal action against him on Friday after he, in a speech to government officials on Thursday, appeared to have admitted that he allowed extrajudicial killings in his crackdown on illegal drugs.
In that speech, the President chided unspecified critics in a tirade about which the context was not clear.
“What is my sin? Did I steal, even one peso? Did I prosecute somebody whom I jailed?” he said.
“My only sin is the extrajudicial killings,” he added, without elaborating.
No more doubt
Brad Adams, Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the President’s “admission should erase any doubt about the culpability of the President” and prodded the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hasten a review of the complaints against him for crimes against humanity.
Mina Pimple, senior director for global operations of Amnesty International, said the President’s “apparent admission” highlighted “the urgent need for international investigations into the thousands of killings and other human rights violations” in the Philippines.
Oppositionist Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the President’s “verbal admission” was “solid evidence” against him.
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay urged the ICC to take the President’s statement as an admission of guilt.
Two complaints have been brought in the ICC against the President for the thousands of killings of mostly poor drug users and small-time peddlers of “shabu” (crystal meth) in the war on drugs.
The Philippine National Police acknowledges more than 4,500 killings in police sweeps of the slums, but insists the victims resisted arrest.
Rights groups, however, say the death toll is more than 12,000.
The President has denied ordering any killings in the war on drugs, but his speech on Thursday is proving a challenge for his aides to walk back.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Friday that the President was just “being playful.”
Panelo tried a different explanation on Sunday, saying: “It is only the baseless allegation of him being behind the extrajudicial killings that appears to tar his governance. That was what he meant.”
“Nitpickers” were twisting the meaning of the President’s statement, Panelo said.
“Obviously, the President, being a Visayan, is not adept at expressing himself in Filipino,” he said.
Instead of distorting the President’s statement about the killings, his “incorrigible critics” should contribute to the government’s war on drugs, he said.
The killings have drawn international condemnation but his foreign secretary insists Mr. Duterte is just doing his job to protect the Philippines and its citizens from drug syndicates.
“We may sometimes differ in how we express ourselves, yet this should not be interpreted as turning our back on the universal declaration of human rights,” Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday.
Cayetano assured world leaders that the Philippine government would always “protect the rights of law-abiding citizens and law enforcers over the rights of drug lords and criminals.” —With reports from Marlon Ramos and the wires
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