Palace insists Duterte against unnecessary use of force in crime crackdown

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Palace insists Duterte against unnecessary use of force in crime crackdown
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte holds a meeting with some members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on April 13, 2020.

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is against the use of unnecessary force in the crackdown on crime, Malacañang said Wednesday, as the tough-talking chief executive continues to be accused of ordering the execution of drug suspects.

Duterte, whose brutal war on illegal drugs has left more than 6,000 suspects dead, claimed last Monday that he never killed anyone or had any person killed.

Critics are not buying the claim, citing his previous remark that he would protect policemen if they kill people because of their duty. Some social media users also pointed out that Duterte had admitted to killing suspected criminals when he was mayor of Davao City.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, however, maintained that the president does not condone murder.

"I keep on telling the people that the president is a lawyer. He was a criminal lawyer. He was a prosecutor. He prosecuted murder cases. He knows the elements of murder," Roque told CNN Philippines.

"While he has taken the side of the state in almost all the instances that I’ve heard, where there’s evidence that in fact there was unnecessary use of force and the use of force was not proportionate, such as in the killing of Kian... but he ordered the prosecution, probe the erring state actors," he added.

Roque was referring to the death of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, who was killed during an anti-drug raid in Caloocan City in 2017. Three policemen tied to Delos Santos' death have been sentenced to up to 40 years in prison with no possibility of parole. Duterte has refused to pardon the policemen, saying his protection to law enforcers does not cover those who are guilty of murder.

Last Tuesday, Roque claimed Duterte's earlier statements about killing people are part of the president's "colorful" language.

"You know, politicians say something because they know it would sell. They are also saying things that are true. While the president's language is colorful, it is to actually generate attention and discussion especially on his pet issue, the anti-drugs campaign," he said at a press briefing.

"But last night, I think the president was speaking from the heart. The president is a lawyer...You know, the indoctrination in law school is strong...follow the constitution, follow the laws, murder is not allowed under the constitition and the law."

The president also revealed last Monday that he had ordered a "discreet hearing" on the alleged extrajudicial killing of drug suspects. He claimed the deaths are tied to turf rivalry among drug syndicates, absconding or the taking of drug money, and quarrels over the supply of narcotics in the streets.

Roque said an inter-agency committee on killings formed by the justice department and the police may have conducted the probe.

"Of course within the PNP (Philippine National Police) itself, they have established procedures to ensure that the policemen especially when there’s a killing did not use disproportionate force," the Palace spokesman said.  

"Because after all, the rule is you could shoot back if your life is threatened provided that the danger was in fact there and the use of force was necessary and that this was proportional to the threat," he added.

Roque said it was also possible that Palace Undersecretary Melchor Quitain was directed to conduct the investigation. He described Quitain as "a very low profile person but delivers very well as far as the president’s impression on the investigations."

"You know, my experience has been if he wants something looked into, he calls on Usec. Quitain and this is the case for all rough cases and I suppose, all investigations that he wants to be done is referred to Usec. Quitain," Roque said. 


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