Duterte does not endorse summary killings—spokesman
MANILA, Philippines—Philippine president-elect Rodrigo Duterte does not endorse extrajudicial killings, his spokesman said Saturday after scathing criticism from the UN chief over his plans for thousands of people to die in an unprecedented war on crime.
Duterte won last month’s elections by a landslide largely due to an explosive law-and-order platform in which he pledged to end crime within six months by killing tens of thousands of suspected criminals.
He has since offered large bounties to security forces as well as the general public to kill drug traffickers.
However his spokesman insisted Saturday Duterte did not support extrajudicial killings.
“The president-elect has not endorsed—cannot—and will never endorse extrajudicial killings, they being contrary to law,” Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
“He does not condone the killing of journalists nor any citizen for that matter, regardless of its purpose.”
“As President he is bound by his constitutional duty to enforce the law, and under no circumstances will he deviate from it,” he said.
“His utterances on media killings were reported incorrectly giving rise to the wrong perception that he was encouraging lawless violence. Consequently, he chastises media persons who practice irresponsible journalism,” he added.
The incoming presidential spokesperson said Duterte would remain loyal to the rule of law amid his agenda to curb crimes by all means.
“The President-elect reiterates his fealty to the Constitution as well as his determination to suppress criminality in any form. Under a Duterte presidency the Bill of Rights as enshrined in the Constitution shall be in full bloom,” Panelo said.
Panelo said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon believed “incorrect news reports” when he condemned Duterte’s apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings.
READ: UN chief slams Duterte
Ban said in a speech in New York on Wednesday that he was “extremely disturbed” by Duterte’s remarks, voicing particular concern over his comments seen as justifying killing journalists.
“I unequivocally condemn his apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms,” Ban wrote. “Such comments are of particular concern in light of on-going impunity for serious cases of violence against journalists in the Philippines.
Duterte, who takes office on June 30, told reporters last week that journalists who took bribes or engaged in other corrupt activities were legitimate targets of assassination.
“Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a b****,” he said.
Duterte cited the case of Jun Pala, a journalist and politician whose 2003 murder, like those of scores of other journalists killed in the Philippines, has never been solved.
“I do not want to diminish his memory but he was a rotten son of a b****. He deserved it,” Duterte said.
His comments sparked outrage from local and foreign media groups warning that his rhetoric could incite more murders in one of the world’s most dangerous nations for reporters.
One of the deadliest attacks against journalists happened in the Philippines in 2009, when 32 journalists were among 58 people killed by a warlord clan bent on stopping a rival’s election challenge.
More than 100 people are on trial for the massacre, including many members of the Ampatuan family accused of orchestrating it. Panelo was the Ampatuans’ defense lawyer until last year.
Duterte has previously been linked with vigilante “death squads” that rights groups say killed more than 1,000 people in the southern city of Davao, which he has ruled as mayor for most of the past two decades.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.