UN rep slams Duterte's remark on extrajudicial killings

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The strained ties between President Rodrigo Duterte and UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard began after she criticized deaths allegedly taking place under the administration's war on drugs.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 28) — The United Nations' Special Rapporteur on summary and arbitrary executions slammed President Rodrigo Duterte's statement on extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the Philippines.

"Extraordinary statement by a Head of State (and we have had many this week at the UN): my 'only' sin is #EJK. Translation: my only sin is imposing unthinkable sufferings on 1000s of vulnerable families, emboldening corrupt policing, destroying rule of law," UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard said in a tweet Friday.

Duterte had seemingly admitted his fault in a speech before career service professionals in Malacañang on Thursday.

"Ano kasalanan ko? Nagnakaw ba ko diyan ni piso?... Ang kasalanan ko lang, yung mga extrajudicial killing," Duterte said.

[Translation: What is my sin? Did I steal even a peso? My only sin are extrajudicial killings.]

Tensions between Callamard and Duterte began after she criticized deaths allegedly taking place under the administration's war on drugs, especially those which involved minors in 2017. She has since been seeking a probe on the  killings, a move which the Duterte government opposed.

The Palace has since opposed Callamard's visits to the country, after it took offense when she visited Manila last May 2017 for an academic conference on illegal drugs. The visit, despite being an unofficial one from the UN, supposedly "violated protocols" according to Malacañang.

Useful confession?

Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kine also took note of Duterte's comment, saying that it was "useful" for the investigation of cases against the Philippine leader pending before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"Duterte publicly admits, again, his culpability in extrajudicial killings. Useful for ongoing (ICC) preliminary examination," he said.

Edwin Lacierda, former presidential spokesperson, said it makes the job of the international court much easier.

"An acquaintance who practices international human rights abroad once remarked to me that PH is the only country where the president & his ministers practically admit to killings. To him, It makes the work of the ICC easier. This is one such confession," it said.

Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay even called on the ICC in a tweet.

"Here's the President of the Republic of the Philippines, making a public admission of crimes under your jurisdiction. Please act asap," Hilbay said.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said Duterte's "admission" would also trump arguments from his supporters who peddle fake news.

"It completely demolishes the argument peddled by his apologists that while there are EJK cases under his term, they were carried out by rogue police personnel without the President's express orders and approval. Now the whole world knows that the killings are not only real, they were not only committed by corrupt police elements, but more importantly, they were sanctioned by the state, no less than by President Duterte himself," she said in a statement.

Malacañang has refused to cooperate with the ICC's preliminary examination, which will determine whether there is cause to go on a full-blown investigation into the killings.

While government data pegged the number of drug-related killings to 4,000, local and international rights groups believe the number to be thrice as high or more.