Palace urges EJK witnesses to come forward
Saying “one death is too many,” Malacañang on Saturday called on those who can provide information and evidence on the deaths linked to the government’s war on drugs to come forward, to resolve these cases and hold perpetrators accountable.
Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella issued the statement as he backed an earlier statement by the Philippine National Police (PNP) that no extra-judicial killing (EJK) had been recorded under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
In a statement, Abella said the PNP’s definition of EJK was based on the operational guidelines of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Administrative Order (AO) No. 35, which states that an EJK is where “the victim was a member of, or affiliated with an organization, to include political, environmental, agrarian, labor, or similar causes; or an advocate of above-named causes; or a media practitioner or person(s) apparently mistaken or identified to be so.”
“Having said that, we wish to emphasize that one death is one too many,” the Palace official said.
“Regardless of this definition, these deaths are being addressed to ensure the accountability of perpetrators, even as it calls upon witnesses and individuals who can provide valuable evidence that will lead to speedy resolution of cases,” he added.
The PNP had said on Friday that no case of an EJK has been recorded since July last year, when Duterte took power and initiated the fierce anti-narcotics campaign.
It retracted an earlier statement that there was one such recorded case.
The PNP cited guidelines of Administrative Order No. 35 issued by former President Benigno Aquino 3rd, which defined EJKs as killings where “the victim was a member of, or affiliated with an organization, to include political, environmental, agrarian, labor, or similar causes; or an advocate of above-named causes; or a media practitioner or person(s) apparently mistaken or identified to be so.”
Under the order, a killing could be classified as extra-judicial if “the victim was targeted and killed because of the actual or perceived membership, advocacy, or profession; or the person/s responsible for the killing is a state agent or non-state agent; and the method and circumstances of attack reveal a deliberate intent to kill,” Abella said.
“AO 35 has not been repealed or revoked; thus, the definition of EJK remains the same,” the Palace official added.
Mayor’s surrender welcomed
Abella also welcomed the surrender of Maasim, Sarangani Mayor Aniceto Lopez Jr. on Friday, hours after a raid on his home yielded illegal drugs and a supposed list of drug personalities.
He noted Lopez’s surrender “underscores how deeply entrenched narco-politics is in the country.”
Lopez surrendered to Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao at the lawmaker’s mansion in General Santos City. The senator then turned him over to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
“The raid by PDEA operatives of the rest house of the Maasim mayor, where P5 million worth of suspected shabu and a mini-shabu laboratory were seized, proves the Administration’s claim that illegal drugs and corruption have captured local politics,” Abella said.
He then called on the public to continue supporting the government’s campaign in eliminating illegal drugs.
“Progress against illegal drugs largely depends on the full support and cooperation of everyone from the citizens to the church and communities,” Abella said.
Lopez was tagged as the leader of El Patron Drug Group that supported Ansar Khalifa Philippines and the New People’s Army, according to PDEA.
The PDEA said Lopez was not on the narco-list of President Rodrigo Duterte but was in the PDEA watchlist.