US to Rody: Stick to drug-war vows

MALACAÑANG on Friday called on the United States not to jump to conclusions after the US State Department urged Manila to stick to its commitment to investigate the growing number of extrajudicial killings in the government’s war on drugs, the first such call since US President Donald Trump took office.

“We share the concern of US Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy, who has been quoted in the media saying that there are elements of the drug war that are operating outside the rule of law,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

“We expect fairness and not a rush to judgment. Right now the people appreciate the changes and the way these are carried out. We ask to be understood not just from a single perspective, but from the point of view of Filipinos who desire change, stability and fairness,” he added.

On Thursday, Patrick Murphy, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for Southeast Asia, said that the United States is alarmed by the growing number of extrajudicial killings committed under the drug war, adding that Washington shares Manila’s objective of eliminating the scourge of illicit drugs and wanted to help.

“We, however, do have a very sustained and deep concern when elements of the drug war are operating outside the rule of law,” Murphy told reporters. “The growing number of extrajudicial killings is troubling.”

In January, Rights advocates said they were concerned when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sidestepped questions about extrajudicial killings in the Philippines during his January confirmation hearing, raising the possibility that Trump might take a softer line on the issue than his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

Murphy, however, said there was a distinction between being a nominee and the secretary of state and Tillerson was now the leader of the policy of expressing concern about the way the drug war was being waged.

“We are urging the Philippines to follow up on its commitment to investigate extrajudicial killings whether they are committed by law enforcement, or of a vigilante nature,” he said.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella

The latest pronouncement of the US State Department is the first under Trump, whom Duterte said supports his anti-drug campaign.

In the same statement, Malacañang dismissed as “fake news” figures circulating that close to 9,000 people, mostly drug users and small-time dealers, have been killed since Duterte took office almost 10 months.

“On the number of extrajudicial deaths, the persistent news reports of 7,000 killed, which is now being said to be close to 9,000, is false news,” Abella said.

The Palace spokesman said there have been close to 6,000 homicides since Duterte took office.

“For the period 01 July 2016 to 24 March 2017, the police has accounted for 6,011 homicide cases under investigation [formerly called deaths under investigation]. Of this number, only 1,398 cases were found to be drug-related, contrary to news reports that there are now close to 9,000 killed connected with the campaign against illegal drugs,” he added.

He said that police “who breach procedures are made to answer before the law.”

“The Philippine National Police [PNP] has an Internal Affairs Service [IAS] tasked to probe police accused of such violations. This body can suspend or dismiss PNP personnel based on violations incurred and can recommend the filing of criminal charges,” he added.

Police say about a third of the victims were shot by officers in self-defense. Human rights groups, however, believe many of the remaining two-thirds were killed by paid assassins cooperating with the police or by police themselves, disguised as vigilantes—a claim being rejected by authorities.

Topics: Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella , United States , US State Department , War on drugs , President Rodrigo Duterte
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