UN, Rights Groups Slam Duterte Over Statement on Extrajudicial Killings

Karl Romano and Luis Liwanag
Dagupan, Philippines and Manila
180928-PH-Duterte-1000.jpg Thousands of Filipinos demonstrate in Manila to criticize President Rodrigo Duterte and mark the anniversary of Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of martial law, Sept. 21, 2018.
Luis Liwanag/BenarNews

The United Nations and the Human Rights Watch led international calls Friday to hold President Rodrigo Duterte accountable for appearing to admit that extrajudicial killings took place in his administration’s war on drugs that has left thousands dead during the past two years.

UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions Agnes Callamard, who has been denied an official investigation into the killings, said the admission destroyed any semblance of rule law in the Southeast Asian country.

Callamard described Duterte’s statement seemingly admitting his fault as “extraordinary.”

“Translation: my only sin is imposing unthinkable sufferings on 1000s of vulnerable families, emboldening corrupt policing, destroying rule of law,” Callamard said via Twitter, responding to Duterte’s statement.

Duterte on Thursday openly acknowledged for the first time that extrajudicial killings had occurred in his government’s sweeping anti-drug war, which according to the police has left some 4,500 drug addicts and dealers dead after fighting it out with the police.

Rights groups, however, have placed the figure at more than 12,000, a figure that Duterte has said was bloated and exaggerated.

In a rambling speech before government employees at the presidential palace on Thursday, Duterte said that he had challenged the military to remove him if they were unsatisfied with his leadership.

“I asked the military, what is my sin? … Did I persecute somebody and throw him in jail?” Duterte said in Filipino, the national language. “My only sin is the extrajudicial killings.”

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque on Friday attempted to dismiss Duterte’s public confession as a “joke.”

“You know the president, he was not being serious,” Roque told BenarNews.

Nonetheless, the admission would likely be used by rights groups to support two murder complaints they have placed against Duterte before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands.

Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said Duterte’s confession would likely be taken seriously by the ICC, emphasizing that what the president made was a public confession that fell under its jurisdiction.

“The ICC should consider that as a formal and public admission of guilt on the part of the president. That’s how simple it is,” he told reporters.

New York-based Human Rights Watch director Brad Adams said Duterte’s admission should prod the ICC “to speed up” its consideration of the cases against the Philippine leader.

“This admission should erase any doubt about the culpability of the president,” Adams said in statement.

“Documentation by various groups, such as Human Rights Watch, as well as credible media reports, have pointed to a systematic, relentless and violent campaign targeting mostly poor drug users, including many who were mistakenly killed, some of them children,” he said.

Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros said in a statement Friday that Duterte's "admission" could also be used as evidence against him in local courts investigating human rights violations under his war on drugs.

“Sooner or later, President Duterte will have to pay the wages of his sin of extrajudicial killings,” she said.

Jeoffrey Maitem in Cotabato City contributed to this report.


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