‘No admission’: Palace scrambles anew to clarify Duterte’s ‘EJK sin’ confession

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang scrambled anew to put out the blaze ignited when President Rodrigo Duterte appeared to admit responsibility for extrajudicial killings, saying there was “no admission” on the part of the firebrand leader.

On Thursday, Duterte, who is known for his off-the-cuff remarks, said as far as he is concerned, summary executions that had taken place during his bloody narcotics crackdown are his only fault. He did not elaborate.

“What are your sins? Me? I told the military 'what are my sins?' Did I steal money? Even just one peso? Did I prosecute somebody I sent to jail? My only sin is extrajudicial killings," Duterte said.

It was not certain whether Duterte was serious when he made the statement, which came months after his critics who accuse him of crimes against humanity filed a complaint against him before the International Criminal Court over the death of thousands of drug suspects. 

“He (Duterte) merely wants to underscore the point that he has not been accused of corruption nor has he engaged in political vendetta,” the Palace said in a statement on Saturday. “All the critics and detractors can allege are killings attributed to his drug war.”

“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.”

Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, earlier said the president was just being "playful."

READ: Palace: Duterte ‘not serious’ when he said EJKs 'his only sin'

Despite claims that the campaign encourages extrajudicial killings, latest opinion polls show Duterte's war on drugs remains popular in the Philippines.

Duterte, who is notorious for his defiance of international pressure, was elected by a landslide in 2016 on a brutal law and order platform.

Human rights watchdogs say most of the fatalities in the government’s anti-narcotic drive are extrajudicial killings committed by cops, something the administration has vehemently denied.

Early this year, the Philippines notified the United Nations secretary-general of its decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty, a month after the court announced it would conduct a preliminary examination into a communication filed by a lawyer accusing Duterte of crimes against humanity.

The tough-talking president’s move to pull his country out of the ICC was a dramatic turnaround from his previous vow to “rot in jail” or be indicted by the Hague-based tribunal for unleashing his lethal war on drugs.

Meanwhile, critics say Duterte’s apparent admission that summary killings have happened under his leadership has established his accountability for the drug-related deaths, adding it should prod the ICC to speed up its initial inquiry.

Duterte’s nemesis, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, said his camp will submit transcript and video of the president’s supposed acknowledgment of his sin to the ICC to bolster the cases filed before the court.



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