Opposition ‘demonizing’ Duterte on drug war: Palace

By Azer Parrocha

March 18, 2019, 2:48 pm

MANILA -- Extrajudicial killings are not state-sponsored and it is only the political opposition “demonizing” President Rodrigo R. Duterte on his administration’s crackdown on illegal drugs, Malacañang said on Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this statement as he dismissed critics for making “misleading and “baseless” remarks about the supposed withdrawal of the Philippines from the Rome Statute which created the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“It is open season of conspiracy theories by the political opposition, the Left and the human rights activists,” Panelo said in a statement.

“Suddenly becoming experts in international law and sharing the common advocacy of demonizing the President and his administration on the issue of human rights vis-a-vis the drug war, they make good media copy, which obviously is the intention,” he added.

In February 2018, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor announced that it would begin preliminary examination on the crimes against humanity linked to the administration’s drug war, a move welcomed by critics.

Panelo, however, insisted that ICC has no jurisdiction over the country since the Philippine criminal justice system continues to be operational and strictly compliant with the constitutional requirement of due process.

He denied that there is a culture of impunity under the Duterte administration.

Panelo said he found it “amusing” how critics reacted to the supposed withdrawal, citing Amnesty International’s remarks that the action is a “futile attempt to evade international justice”.

He also dismissed the party-list Gabriela’s statement that the move could “sound off a nastier wave of rights abuses, including red-tagging of Duterte critics”.

“The Commission on Human Rights and the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court add to the conspiratorial chorus by saying ‘it is impunity that wins" and "those who kill with impunity will only be further emboldened,’” Panelo said.

‘National survival’

Panelo, meanwhile, emphasized that the war on drug is anchored on “national survival” and “accountability of those who bring the nation to the precipice of destruction”.

“Extrajudicial killings are not State-sponsored. They are the direct consequence of members of the drug syndicates killing each other either for their own protection or to exact revenge against whistleblowers,” Panelo said.

“Others arise out of turf wars among the drug lords and drug pushers while many of them resulting from botched deals and swindling,” he added.

He further noted that deaths in police operations come about as suspects resist arrest with violence that put the police officers in mortal risk.

“The scores of dead policemen and serious injuries to the hundreds of men in uniform are grim testimonials to the reality that those involved in the drug cartel will not allow themselves to be arrested or captured alive,” Panelo said.

File charges

Panelo urged critics who alleged that extrajudicial killings are state-sponsored to file the appropriate charges in local courts.

“We earnestly urge those who assert that the deaths resulting from the war on drugs are sanctioned by the administration to file sworn complaints before the appropriate administrative and judicial bodies to test the validity of their assertion apart from assisting in the administration of justice,” Panelo said.

“Failure to undertake this process can only mean that they are engaged in conjectures and politicizing the matter to the advantage of drug personalities and criminals,” he added.

He said not even the ICC can stop the Duterte administration from pursuing its war on drugs because it is his mandate to ensure Filipinos’ safety.

“The President’s immovable goal in pursuing the relentless drive against the destroyers of society is based on his constitutional duty to serve and protect the people. No force on earth can dissuade or stop him from pursuing such objective and complying with the constitutional order,” Panelo said.

“The fight against the enemies of the state will be continuing with merciless constitutional force and unstoppable scorching motion until the republic and the people are secured from their evil and destructive clutches,” he added.

Panelo also pointed out a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey which showed that seven out of 10 Filipinos still believe in the administration’s sincerity in solving extrajudicial killings in the country.

“Seven out of 10 Filipinos will not stamp their approval on the current government’s seriousness in solving and stopping extrajudicial deaths in the country if they do not see its sincerity,” Panelo said.

“March 17 has passed. The sky has not fallen and the sun still rises on the east. Our people desire policies with immediate results rather than noise emanating from groups closely identified with the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front) and a defeated major political party which presently are fighting for political survival and relevance,” Panelo said.

Recent data from the Philippine National Police showed that over 5,000 people have been killed in drug-related operations since the drug war was launched on July 1, 2016. (PNA)