MANILA, Philippines – Tokhang and Double Barrel are being intensified by another notch: police chiefs assigned in areas governed by “narco mayors” have been ordered to shoot to kill.
President Duterte announced the order as he met with mayors from around the country at Malacañang yesterday.
“I will kill you,” he warned mayors involved in drugs, adding that the local police chiefs would be the designated hit men.
The President met with the mayors by batches yesterday – the first time since he assumed office and went on a full-scale campaign against illegal drugs.
Quoting the President, Tanauan City Mayor Antonio Halili said Duterte assured them he would not hesitate ordering chiefs of police to shoot the narco mayors in their respective areas of jurisdiction.
“Papatayin kita… I will ask the chief of police to shoot you,” Halili told The STAR last night after the meetings, quoting Duterte.
The President showed the mayors that he was dead serious about the war on drugs, Halili said, adding that Duterte fumed about how drugs have been destroying the moral fabric of society.
“It’s a very stern warning to those who are involved in drugs that you should stop… he is actually asking the police to shoot them (narco-mayors),” said Halili, himself involved in a shame campaign where drug suspects are paraded in his home province, a strategy that has also drawn flak from critics.
Apart from the police, Duterte told the mayors that he will be tapping the military in his campaign against drugs.
Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno, who has administrative control over the local officials, was absent during the meeting but Defense Secretary Deflin Lorenzana and Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa were present when Duterte warned the local executives.
The President said that he would order the Commission on Audit (COA) to review the intelligence funds of local officials who will not do anything to eradicate drugs in their provinces.
Duterte also aired his frustration over the magnitude of the illegal drug problem in the country.
Security at the meetings was so strict that mayors were barred from bringing their cell phones inside Malacañang, Halili said.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) invited 1,490 town mayors and 145 city mayors nationwide to attend the meeting yesterday in Malacañang.
The mayors were divided into two groups, with the first group made up of officials from the Visayas, Mindanao and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) while the the second group consisted of officials from Luzon.
In the meeting with the mayors from the Visayas and Mindanao, Halili said the President again voiced his anger against retired police general and now Mayor Vicente Loot of Daanbantayan, Cebu who has been linked to drug trafficking in the region.
He was so angry with Loot who, as a former police general, the President said should have known better than be involved in illegal drug operations, Halili added.
Duterte told his audience that Loot tried to talk to him but he declined to even meet the mayor.
Halili came with the batch of Luzon mayors, who were among the busloads ferried from the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City that was used as a holding area before the Palace meeting.
The mayors were picked up from PICC and transported by bus to Malacañang, and vice-versa.
Duterte also urged the local officials who have strong anti-drug campaigns to continue helping him.
“He encouraged us to continue the campaign,” said Halili, adding the President posed for photo opportunities with the mayors after the speech.
While some mayors felt tired waiting for several hours to meet the President, Halili said it was worth it.
“We were inspired to continue the campaign,” said Halili, who was previously linked to drugs but has denied the allegations. After the speech, the mayors were treated to a simple snack of spring rolls, pork barbecue and other refreshments. Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella was mum on the details of the meeting, but reports said the President met first with the mayors from the Visayas and Mindanao before seeing those from Luzon.
A local official said that the meeting with the President was some kind of a “January call” on the Chief Executive.
The Malacañang invitation was not limited to mayors involved in illegal drugs but also local officials linked to other illegal activities.
Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go told The STAR that all mayors in the country were invited to meet the President. “It was a general invitation to mayors,” Abella said.
Abella deemed the meeting as a conversation between the President – a former mayor – and the local executives where the issue of illegal drugs will likely be discussed.
“Let us put it this way, I suppose the intent is to have a conversation, he has not really met with the mayors in order to directly discuss his position, especially on criminality, crime and drugs,” Abella said.
“I suppose it is safe to assume that that will be part of the conversation this afternoon, I’d rather state it that way, a dialogue between the President and his executives,” he added.
During a speech last Monday, Duterte said he would kill mayors in the narco-list, which has been verified by his security team.
“I would call for the mayors and we would speak privately. I will really tell them: Look for your name in the narco-list. Son of a b***h, if your name is there, you have a problem. I will really kill you,” Duterte said in Filipino. - With Edith Regalado