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Duterte to pardon cops in drug killings

More than 1,000 residents queue up in a gymnasium after heeding a call from Tanauan city government to undergo processing allegedly for being drug-users Monday, July 18, 2016 at Tanauan city, Batangas province, south of Manila, Philippines. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he plans to ask Chinese officials why some Chinese citizens who visit his country are involved in illegal drugs. The crime-fighting President, who has vowed to end crimes within six months of taking office on June 30, also said that he will not hesitate to grant pre-signed presidential pardons to law enforcers accused by human rights advocates of abusing their authority in cracking down on narcotics, as long as the soldiers and police involved tell the truth and do not fabricate evidence. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines - Law enforcers who may be convicted of criminal offenses in the discharge of their anti-drug related duties are assured of presidential pardon.

“(The) President can grant pardon, conditional or absolute; or grant amnesty with the concurrence of Congress. Gagamitin ko ’yan. Maniwala kayo (I’ll use it, believe me),” Duterte said at a fellowship dinner with his batchmates at the San Beda College of Law Sunday.

He said such assurance would encourage policemen to perform their tasks without having to worry about getting prosecuted for killing suspected drug traffickers and pushers.

Human rights groups have expressed alarm over the spate of killings of suspected drug peddlers in what authorities called anti-drug operations. Bodies of alleged drug dealers have been turning up across the country, especially in Metro Manila, in the past weeks – or from the time Duterte’s election victory was certain.

The Chief Executive, who did not mince words about his readiness to kill drug pushers and hardened criminals, said he is prepared to pardon 10 to 15 policemen convicted for criminal offense in the performance of their duties.

Duterte, who was a provincial prosecutor before he became a politician, said he would produce “pre-signed” copies of pardon papers so they could readily be made available if needed. An individual granted absolute pardon regains his civil rights in full, he said.

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He said critics of his tough approach to fighting the drug menace should realize that if pushed against the wall, he would not hesitate to use his power to pardon policemen involved in the war against drugs. He said he would also grant pardon to himself after his term.

“After I leave Malacañang, I will have this signed: Pardon is hereby granted to Rodrigo Duterte. Signed Rodrigo Duterte,” he said, adding he cannot even be made to serve time in prison because of his age.

Duterte reiterated that he has long asked drug lords and suspects to stop their illegal activities or face the consequences. He stressed it is his duty to protect the nation from the ill effects of drugs.

Amid calls for him to heed due process, Duterte said  the individuals he had publicly shamed can always go to the courts and seek redress.

“Why will I give you (due) process? I’m the President, hindi ako nagpo-proseso. I just name you publicly because it is my sworn duty to protect the nation and tell you what the problem is and who are the people behind it,” he said.

Duterte reiterated he is prepared to “stake the presidency, the honor that goes with it and my life.”

“Hindi ako aatras dito. Hindi ako matatakot n’yang mga human rights (I will not back down. I’m not afraid of human rights),” he said. “I will not allow the country to be thrown to the dogs. I will not allow my country to be destroyed.”

As if taking a cue from the President, incoming speaker Pantaleon Alvarez cautioned his colleagues against pushing for an inquiry into the spate of drug-related killings.

He said lawmakers should attend to their task of lawmaking instead of launching investigations.

He said he does not see that an inquiry would produce any positive result in terms of remedial legislation being recommended.

“For if in the course of an investigation, the evidence should point to extrajudicial killing – that’s already illegal. So, what new law may be passed in relation to that?” he asked.

At most, Alvarez said lawmakers could only recommend the filing of charges before the appropriate government entities like the Department of Justice (DOJ), which would have to determine probable cause.

“Congress will be better off leaving these matters to the DOJ and attending to important priority measures like the 2017 national budget,” he said.

He warned his colleagues that they might be suspected of protecting drug lords if they inquire into drug-relating killings or slow down the Duterte administration’s anti-illegal drugs drive.

“I don’t want any insinuation that the drug lords are using members of Congress to investigate the police so the latter would go slow on their campaign against illegal drugs,” he said.

Peter Lim to NBI

After being confronted by Duterte himself for his alleged drug links, Cebu-based businessman Peter Lim has been summoned by the National Bureau of Investigation.

NBI director Dante Gierran revealed this yesterday after a meeting at the DOJ with Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.

In an ambush interview, the NBI chief revealed to reporters that Lim was actually set to appear at their headquarters in Manila yesterday but failed to do so because he was not feeling well. Gierran said Lim is expected to appear before the NBI probably this week.

In a separate interview, Aguirre said the NBI’s parallel probe on Lim stemmed from the businessman’s meeting with President Duterte, who recently announced that a certain “Peter Lim” was among the biggest illegal drug operators in the country.

He said the bureau has been specifically tasked to “verify” if the businessman and the person tagged as head of the drug triad in the country – and who is being protected by the so-called “narco-generals” – are one and the same person.

“Since Peter Lim came forward to talk to the President and clear himself, then the order there is really for Peter Lim – together with the agencies – to prove that he has nothing to do with drugs.  But if there is involvement, then the police agencies and the NBI will file the necessary case against Peter Lim for preliminary investigation,” he explained.

“The police agencies and the NBI are doing what needs to be done – to establish identity, to establish culpability. If evidence for culpability is established, then we are going to investigate after they file the case before the DOJ,” Aguirre said.

The DOJ chief revealed that Duterte has tapped him “to use all the resources of the department to go after drug lords, and file cases of graft and corruption and heinous crimes.”

Asked if he would issue an immigration lookout bulletin order against the businessman to monitor his possible flight, Aguirre said there is a need first for “preliminary findings on his alleged involvement in drugs.”

“As of now, we have not received any negative finding yet,” he clarified. Aguirre also pointed out that the name Peter Lim, as shown by Bureau of Immigration records, is so common that there are 4,000 people in the country with the same name.

Aside from Lim, Duterte has named two other drug traffickers in the country, Peter Co and Herbert Colangco, both serving sentence at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

In their meeting last Friday night at the regional office of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Davao City, the President threatened to kill Lim if it would be proven that he is among the country’s top drug lords.

Lim told Duterte, whom he supported in the presidential election, that he had nothing to do with illegal drugs.

Unfazed

Sen. Leila de Lima, for her part, said she is unfazed by the vicious attacks against her in social media that she believes were triggered by her push to have the Senate investigate the rising incidents of summary executions of drug suspects.

The senator described the posts on the Internet as the “black or dark side of social media.”

 “And I’m practically defenseless against these rabid attacks. My only defense is a clear conscience and my fidelity to the Constitution and the law,” De Lima said in a text message.

“But if they think I will be cowed or intimidated, they’re grossly mistaken,” she said.

Various videos of her have gone viral in social media sites, including a blurry one purportedly of her in a compromising position.

De Lima, a former justice secretary and chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, said she does not intend to waste time and dignify the posts by finding out who are behind them.

“I’m just leaving those up to God,” she said.

De Lima earlier filed a resolution calling for an investigation into the rising incidents of unexplained killings of suspected criminals but was told that it would have to be discussed in a caucus before the measure could be acted upon by the Senate leadership.

Her resolution met stiff opposition from Sens. Panfilo Lacson and Vicente Sotto III, who both said such an inquiry would be premature.

Lacson said there are complaints that would warrant a Senate probe, which could just be used as a fishing expedition. – With Paolo Romero, Evelyn Macairan, Edu Punay, Jess Diaz

 

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