MALACANANG slammed Sen. Leila de Lima and Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairman Jose Luis Martin Gascon for their so-called “hypocrisies” in criticizing the Duterte administration over alleged extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in its war against illegal drugs.
In reply to a statement, Palace spokesman Harry Roque reminded de Lima and Gascon that they were signatories to an administrative order that excluded criminals, like drug suspects, from the definition of EJKs.
Roque said that Administrative Order (AO) 35 signed in 2013 by then President Benigno Aquino 3rd, along with De Lima and Gascon, stated that EJKs involved victims who were members of either political, environmental, agrarian, or labor organizations; advocates of such causes; media practitioners; or apparently mistaken or identified.
He added that perpetrators of EJKs, who may be state agents or non-state agents, had a “deliberate intent to kill” victims because of their “actual or perceived, membership advocacy, or profession.”
Roque said that AO 35 also provided that killings related to common criminals and the perpetration of their crimes “shall be addressed by other appropriate mechanisms within the justice system.”
“How is it now that when drug pushers or users die, Senator de Lima and Chairman Gascon insist that these are EJKs? Their sudden about-face is baffling given that these drug pushers and users are not members or affiliated with any political, environmental, agrarian, or labor organization. These drug pushers or users are likewise not journalists,” he said.
De Lima was then secretary of Justice while Gascon was undersecretary for political affairs of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs (OPAPP).
Instead of criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign on illegal drugs, Roque said de Lima and Gascon should be defending it because both of them were cognizant that there were no EJKs in this crackdown.
He stressed that if the two officials insisted that there were EJKs of suspected drug personalities, they should also admit that they did “wrong” during Aquino’s term.
“If the two believed then that the AO they adopted was correct and in accordance with the law, they should be the first to defend the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs because the AO No. 35 signed by former President Benigno Aquino 3rd is correct,” Roque said.
“But if they believe today that the reported deaths in the war on drugs are EJKs, they should also admit to the nation and to the world that what they did during the Aquino administration was wrong and that Aquino only signed AO No. 35 so that his administration would not be blamed for the deaths of drug pushers and users during his presidency,” he added.
The Palace official said it was now time to expose the hypocrisies of de Lima and Gascon.
“It is high time that the hypocrisies of Senator de Lima and Chairman Gascon are exposed in favor of the truth. The Filipino people deserve no less,” Roque said.
In a message on International Human Rights Day on December 10, de Lima hit Duterte for “boasting” that there would be an “increase in the body count” of drug traffickers as the Philippine National Police (PNP) joined anew the drug war.
De Lima, currently detained over drug charges for her alleged involvement in the drug trade when she was justice secretary, lambasted Duterte for purportedly “instructing, instigating, and inciting” killings of thousands of alleged drug offenders.
On the other hand, the CHR led by Gascon, along with civil society organizations, launched on December 7 a consultative caucus in response to the “pressing human rights and social justice issues” in the country.
The launch of the consultative caucus came amid Duterte’s directive to the PNP to once again take an active participation in launching operations against illegal drugs.
The PNP said not a single case of extrajudicial killing has been recorded under Duterte’s term.
The administration also dismissed estimates by human rights groups that drug-related deaths have reached more than 10,000.
Authorities said some 3,800 drug suspects slain in police anti-drug operations since Duterte took his post on July 2016 had resisted arrest.