PH sees ‘cautiously optimistic’ U.S. position on drug war positively but insists, no EJKs

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Makati residents who heeded calls to turn themselves in under "Oplan Tokhang" wait before taking a pledge to quit their supposed involvement in drugs. (Reuters file)

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has chosen to view as positive the United States’ “cautiously optimistic” view of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war against illegal drugs but continued to insist that “extrajudicial killings 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 spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement Wednesday.

In a telephone press briefing Tuesday evening, Walsh, deputy assistant secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, said the U.S. was aware of the resumption of a modified version of the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the Philippine National Police and said “the United States (is) being cautiously optimistic … when it comes to a good, appropriate way of drug campaign,” noting the “downward trend” in EJKs.

At the same time, he said, the U.S. would continue to monitor the human rights situation even as he vowed continued support in such areas as “rule of law, drug demand reduction programs, and maritime assistance.”

But Roque refuted the US official’s remarks on the matter of EJKs and pointed out that all member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, 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,” he added.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar echoed Roque’s position, saying: “While we welcome U.S. 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.”

“We urge the U.S. 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 U.S. State Department, if it wishes to have it,” Andanar said.