MANILA — Malacañang on Wednesday welcomed the “cautiously optimistic” view expressed by a senior United States government official on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war against illegal drugs, but stressed anew that “extra-judicial killings (EJKs) never had a place” in the campaign.
“The remarks of US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Walsh hint of a growing appreciation of the positive impact of the administration’s anti-illegal drug campaign,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
However, Roque refuted the US official’s remarks on the matter of EJKs.
In a telephone press briefing Tuesday evening, Walsh, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) of the US State Department, said the US was aware of the resumption of a modified version of the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and described “the United States being cautiously optimistic in the… when it comes to a good, appropriate way of drug campaign.”
The US official said the cautiously optimistic view was due to the downward trend in alleged EJK incidents in the country.
Walsh said the US would continue to monitor the human rights situation even as he vowed of continued US support in such areas as “rule of law, drug demand reduction programs, and maritime assistance.”
Roque pointed out, however, that all member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as Japan and China “have fully supported our efforts to contain the manufacture and proliferation of illegal drugs.”
“These efforts are anchored on respect for human rights, cognizant of our obligation to protect our people’s right to life and to live in peace and security,” he said.
“And we wish to reiterate that extrajudicial killings never had – and will never have – a place in the anti-illegal drug campaign.” Roque stressed.
The Palace official cited the significant strides of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in the conduct of anti-drug operations for having been noteworthy with dens and clandestine laboratories dismantled and drugs seized with fewer drug-related deaths.
“We are confident that the re-launch of the PNP’s Operation Tokhang would have similar results. This early, there have been hundreds of surrenderees and no casualty on its first day,” Roque said.
His views were shared by Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.
“While we welcome US State Department senior official James Walsh’s ‘cautiously optimistic’ view of President Duterte’s successful anti-illegal drugs campaign, we maintain that there are no EJKs under the Duterte Administration,” he said in a statement sent to reporters.
“We urge the US State Department, Mr. Walsh in particular, to base its assessment of this administration’s human rights records on real figures from the people who were actually on the ground — police, barangay leaders, and ordinary citizens. These real figures were published many times over and is available to the US State Department, if it wishes to have it,” Andanar said.