Interviewed on ANC’s Headstart on July 18, Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa claimed that former president Rodrigo Duterte never ordered the killing of anyone involved in drugs. This is inaccurate.
The former Philippine National Police chief was interviewed on his thoughts on the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s recent request to the Pre-Trial Chamber I to resume its drug war probe. The investigation was suspended in November 2021 when the ICC approved the Duterte administration’s deferral request, citing the government’s own investigation into the drug war killings.
Duterte’s controversial statements ordering law enforcement personnel to kill lawbreakers have been well-documented throughout his six-year term.
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Duterte’s speeches throughout his presidency have been embellished with violent rhetoric toward those involved in illegal drugs. (Read VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Duterte’s ‘never-ending’ fight against drugs and corruption in his own words)
The former president even made these remarks as recent as April 22 at the 43rd commencement exercises of the Philippine National Police Academy.
“Sabihin ko nakikinig naman lahat pati (I’m going to say it, everyone’s listening anyway, including [those concerned about]) human rights: if you go into drugs, you will destroy my country. And if you destroy my country, I will kill you. Iyon ang pinakaano ko — lalo na drugs.”
Source: Presidential Communications Operations Office, 43rd Commencement Exercises of the PNPA for BSPS ‘Alab-Kalis’ Class of 2022 (Speech) 4/21/2022, April 22, 2022, watch from 44:17 to 44:33
The former chief executive went as far as to assure law enforcers that he would take responsibility for the killings. Several times, however, Duterte backtracked on his kill orders, saying that his off-tangent words in public briefings should not be taken as official directives. (Read VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte backtracks on having killed, VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte says he never ordered the police to kill anyone, backpedals less than a minute later)
While the Palace asserted that Duterte’s statements are hyperbolic quips that should not be taken literally, human rights groups pointed out that the former president’s words do, in fact, shape policy, regardless of the supposedly informal approach.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on Aug. 9, 2022 to correct a typographical error.
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ABS-CBN News official YouTube channel, Headstart | ANC (July 18, 2022), July 18, 2022
RTV Malacañang, Arrival from Official Visit to Vietnam (Speech) 9/30/2016, Sept. 30, 2016
International Criminal Court, Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim A. A. Khan QC, following the application for an order under article 18(2) seeking authorisation to resume investigations in the Situation in the Philippines, June 24, 2022
Presidential Communications Operations Office official Facebook page, PDP-Laban Proclamation Rally Lapu-Lapu City March 31, 2022, March 31, 2022
RTV Malacañang, Speech of President Rodrigo Duterte during the Wallace Business Forum Dinner, Dec. 12, 2016
Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the Hugpong ng Pagbabago Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod (HNP-HTL) Miting de Avance, May 6, 2022
BBC News official YouTube channel, Duterte killings claim ‘not literal’ – BBC News, Dec. 16, 2016
Human Rights Watch, Asia’s ‘Shoot-to-Kill’ Republic?, July 22, 2016
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)