Late last week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made a statement that some interpret as an admission of extrajudicial killings under his administration.
In the context of the bloody war on drugs that began when Duterte took office two years ago, “extrajudicial killings” is a euphemism for executions.
The police and the military say that about 4,500 people have been killed, and that each and every one of those deaths came when security forces acted in self-defense. Human rights groups put the number at 12,000, many, if not most, shot in the back of the head, execution style.
In a typically rambling speech to government executives last week, President Duterte said the military and the police should remove him from power if they weren’t happy with the way he ran the country.
“I told the military, what is my fault? Did I steal even one peso?” Duterte said, and then added, “My only sin is the extrajudicial killings.”
The next day, presidential spokesman Harry Roque, Junior told reporters that Duterte was just emphasizing that he had never been accused of corruption, and that the only thing critics could allege were extrajudicial killings.
And in naming the military, Duterte may have also been addressing rumors of a coup – rumors he started. Last week he spoke of an alleged attempt to seize power by some army officers in league with communists; he called it the “Red October” plot. He also said some soldiers were in cahoots with the opposition Liberal party – there appears to be no evidence of either conspiracy.