Panelo accuses drug syndicates of EJKs and critics of distorting Duterte's words

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Panelo accuses drug syndicates of EJKs and critics of distorting Duterte's words
President Rodrigo Duterte shows the ring worn by Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo during the meeting with the Filipino community at the Grand Hilton Convention Center Seoul in South Korea on June 3, 2018.
Toto Lozano / Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — Extrajudicial killings in the Philippines were perpetrated by drug syndicates, President Rodrigo Duterte's chief legal adviser insisted Sunday, as he accused critics of twisting the Philippine leader's statements to smear him. 

Duterte, known for his tough talk and off the cuff remarks, sparked controversy anew last week after he claimed that his only sin is extrajudicial killings to emphasize that he was never into corruption.

Critics have taken turns pouncing on the president, saying the statement had affirmed claims that Duterte ordered the summary execution of drug suspects. 

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, however, claimed that the president's statement was not an admission and blamed the killings on illegal drug rings. 

"Extrajudicial killings are the result of members of the drug syndicates killing each other due to fraud in their dealings as well as a means of protecting and avenging themselves from whistleblowers," Panelo said in a statement.  

"The fact that policemen are killed in anti-drug operations shows that the drug lords and pushers use violence in resisting arrest as well as putting the lives of the arresting officers in peril hence their application of lawful self-defense," he added.

Panelo: Allegations 'baseless'

Panelo claimed allegations that Duterte ordered extrajudicial killings are "baseless." With Duterte's latest comment, Panelo said the president's "usual incorrigible critics and detractors" have found another "arsenal" within which to put the chief executive in a bad light.

"It is only the baseless allegation of him (Duterte) being behind the extrajudicial killings that appears to tar his governance. That was what he meant when he made the aforesaid statement, the meaning of which is now, as always, being twisted by the perennial nitpickers of his uncommon lingua franca," Panelo said.

"Obviously the president being a Visayan is not adept at expressing himself in Filipino. The president will not stop at continuing his war against illegal drugs, a duty imposed on him by the Constitution," he added.

Panelo said Duterte had declared in his first State of the Nation Address that "there would be hell to pay against those who abuse their authority because they become worse than criminality itself." 

"What he (Duterte) meant when he made that utterance was that from day one of his presidency he could not be accused of corruption. Nor could he be blamed for persecuting anyone or putting anybody to jail. He has nothing to do with few of his critics being placed in jail or facing the brunt of the law," Panelo said.  

"That happenstance as properly belongs to another branch of the government which he does not have control of nor is he inclined to influence. Interference with a co-equal body is simply out of his character," he added.

'SWS poll validated drug war's success'

Panelo said the recent survey suggesting majority of Filipinos support the anti-drug war validated the "success and effectiveness" of the campaign. A Social Weather Stations survey conducted from June 27 to 30 suggested that 78 percent of Filipinos are satisfied with the crackdown while only 13 percent are not for a net satisfaction rating of +65.

"Rather than maliciously and continuously paint the dismantling of the drug apparatus as a crime against humanity, the purveyors of the status quo should instead view it as a forceful legal method of saving a generation from drug addiction and ruin," Panelo said.  

"For once in their lives they should contribute to its triumph by assisting the government in its fight against the destroyers of society, for they may well be saving themselves and their families from the scourge of illegal drugs," he added. 

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