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Duterte warns chief justice against 'meddling' in drug war

Army troops listen to President Rodrigo Duterte during his visit to the headquarters of the 3rd Infantry Division in Camp General Macario Peralta Jr. in Jamindan, Capiz on August 5. Presidential Photographers Division/Ace Morandante, file
MANILA, Philippines -- A fiery President Rodrigo Duterte warned Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Tuesday that he would order his officials not to honor the judiciary if she creates a “crisis” and continues what he called her meddling in his crackdown on illegal drugs.
 
Duterte, who promised to launch a ruthless and brutal war against illegal drugs and crime, was visibly ticked off by Sereno’s statement that judges who are linked to illegal drugs should not surrender unless there is a duly-issued arrest warrant against them.
 
In a speech delivered before soldiers in Cagayan de Oro, the president could not hide his displeasure over the chief justice’s pronouncement, saying he cannot afford to wait for arrest warrants while people are being “slaughtered” by drug users.
 
“You know, chief justice, there is a slaughter going on. Mind you, you are appointed by the government there in your office as chief justice at a time when the government is doing nothing. Why wait for warrant of arrest? There are 600,000 people addicted to drugs?” Duterte said. 
 
“Madam Chief Justice, you must be joking. You must be joking. Both of us are lawyers… You know how long it will take for the government to secure a warrant of arrest,” he added.
 
“I warn you. Don’t create a crisis because I will order everybody in the executive department not to honor you. You want me to be frank?”
 
Duterte said it takes about two to three months before an arrest warrant can be secured. He noted that cases take years or even “forever” before they are resolved by the court.
 
“In the Supreme Court (SC), tell me. What is the fastest decision you made on criminal cases?... You’re asking for warrant of arrest for 600,000 Filipinos. In the meantime, what do we do with the addict? We let them stay there to resume their criminal activity?” the president said.
 
“Ma’am huwag tayo magbolahan (let’s not fool each other) and don’t force the issue. I respect your comment but it is…a rigmarole to me,” he added.  
 
"Pigilin mo ako sige...Pag nagwala, would you rather I declare martial law?" he also said.
 
 
Duterte blamed the Aquino administration for its failure to curb the drug menace in the country “Six years have passed and nothing happened,” the tough-talking president said.
 
Former President Benigno Aquino III named Sereno chief justice in 2012 after the ouster of SC chief Renato Corona, who was found guilty by an impeachment court of failing to declare some of his assets.
 
Duterte said he is ready to step down once federalism is established and the problem of drugs is resolved.  
 
“I’m ready to retire if federalism is ready two to three years from now. I’ll give way and I’m good for retirement,” he added.
 
The president stressed that he did not make an “accusatorial utterance” when he linked more than a hundred officials to narcotics trade.
 
“It is in consonance to my duty as president of the Philippines to let everybody know the people around them,” he said.
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