Presidential Chief Legal Counsel says there are no state-sponsored killings

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo is standing by the administration in saying that there are no state-sponsored killings in the Country. 

In an interview on CNN Philippines' "The Source," Panelo said that while there are killings happening in the Philippines, none of them are endorsed by the state.

"What is important to me is that there are no EJKs which are state-sponsored," he said.

Panelo said that of the thousands arrested under drug charges, only 700 people have been killed in police anti-drug operations. The rest of the dead, he said, were killed by fellow drug operators.

"Kaya diba sinasabi ng mga nasa authorities, eh siguro raw mga 700 lang ang sinasabing involved ang mga police. The rest of them wala kasi sila sila nagpapatayan. They are helping the government by doing that, so keep on doing it."

[Translation: That's why authorities say only 700 cases involved the police. The rest of them, it's just them who are killing each other.]

Panelo's statement comes after the Department of Interior and Local Government released a report on Friday declaring that there were no state-endorsed extra judicial killings (EJK) in the country.

Since the President assumed office, the Duterte administration has come under international scrutiny for the alleged state-sponsored killings sustaining its anti-drug campaign.

However, on Friday, the DILG investigation refuted these claims. According to the DILG, there was no evidence supporting accusations of widespread human rights violations under the Duterte administration's war on drugs.

Panelo mirrored the DILG's statement, saying that the alleged EJKs were not state-sponsored, but done by syndicate groups aiming to silence their enemies.

According to him the spate of killings surfacing in the country, was not the government's doing, but that of drug groups hoping to avoid arrest.

The Chief Legal Counsel hit the President's critics, saying they were unaware of the true cause of EJKs in the country.

"Ang problema kasi [The problem is], they don't realize the fact that the members of the syndicate are killing each other because they're trying to protect one another from each other kaya nagpapatayan sila [that's why they're killing each other]."

Panelo also commented on the DILG's instructions to use "Extra legal killings" instead of "Extra judicial killings," as according to DILG the latter implied the existence of a death penalty law, which is not present in the Philippines.

Panelo said it's irrelevant which term is used as both imply killings outside of the legal framework.

"It's the same, extrajudicial or extralegal. It becomes extrajudicial because only the courts can decide whether a person can be killed if the decision is the death penalty so if you kill a person outside of that, it becomes extrajudicial or extra-legal," he said.