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'No admission' on part of Duterte regarding EJKs, says Palace

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Saturday clarified that President Rodrigo Duterte has not admitted to committing extrajudicial killings.

"First, there is no admission on the part of the President. He merely wants to underscore the point that he has not been accused of corruption nor has he engaged in political vendetta," Roque said in a statement.

"All the critics and detractors can allege are killings attributed to his drug war," he added.

Roque was referring to a speech Duterte made before new career government officials in Malacañang on Thursday wherein he said: "Ano kasalanan ko? Nagnakaw ba ako diyan ni piso? Did I prosecute somebody na pinakulong ko? Ang kasalanan ko lang 'yung mga extrajudicial killing."

The President, however, reiterated there was no evidence to implicate him in the killings of more than 4,000 alleged drug offenders since he assumed office in June 2016.

"4,000 deaths. When? Where? How? What did I use? Wala," he said, adding "ninja cops" or policemen involved in the illegal drug trade are behind the killings.

Roque also said Duterte recognizes and "feels it is unfortunate" that there were drug-related killings in the country.

"Second, the President recognizes and feels it is unfortunate the incidence and increase of drug-related deaths in the country," he said.

The presidential spokesperson said that most of the killings "although drug-related, did not result as part of any police operation."

With regard to killings occurring during police operations Roque said: "we maintain that police authorities also have the right to protect themselves from violent resistance."

"The President remains steadfast in the belief that one of the country’s greatest ills is the rampant use, sale and distribution of illicit drugs, which is why he led with this campaign promise during the elections, for which the Filipino elected him with more than 16 million votes," he said.

"The President knows fully well that his policy on the war on drugs is necessary, even saying that he is willing to sacrifice his life, his honor, even the presidency to fulfill his electoral vow," Roque added.

"The intention of the drug war is to save the youth of this country. The President therefore has to weigh the interests of the many against those of the few," he said.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Friday said it was not right for Duterte to make light the subject of extrajudicial killings, much more make it a subject of a joke.

"Sagrado ang buhay. Hindi ito dapat pinaglalaruan," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement, after Malacañang said Duterte was only joking on Thursday night when he admitted orchestrating extrajudicial killings.

Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo, on the other hand, pointed out that the President is not a native Tagalog speaker so he uses words differently. He said what the President really meant was that EJK was the only issue against him.

Nonetheless, De Guia said Duterte's remarks will not disrupt the investigations of the CHR on every case of death linked to the campaign against illegal drugs. —KG, GMA News