Rody: If wrong, I’ll accept consequences

Giovanni Nilles (The Philippine Star) - August 9, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - With even Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno noting that one of seven judges linked to drugs is dead, President Duterte has admitted that there may be mistakes in his list of incumbent and former local executives, lawmakers, judges and uniformed personnel suspected of involvement in drugs.

But the President is ready for the consequences of errors.

“If I end up being wrong, 10 angels swearing I was right would make no difference. If I am wrong, I will accept the consequences,” the President said in an interview after baring the list at Camp Panacan in Davao City on Sunday.

While admitting that the list may contain errors, Duterte stressed this would apply to only a few.

“Verified means to say (it is true). On our level, (it was) validated (several times)... (but I said) I could be wrong. Maybe, the military or the police (committed a mistake). But that wide (margin of error), I do not believe it,” the President said.

In a letter to Duterte yesterday, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno clarified that Municipal Trial Court judge Lorenda Mupas of Dasmariñas in Cavite was dismissed from the service in 2007 for ignorance of the law, while Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge Roberto Navidad was killed in 2008.

The President cited both judges as among those involved in the illegal drug trade.

He also identified a certain Jeffrey Celiz as a House representative of a party-list group (Panay Chapter), but Celiz was found to be a consultant of Iloilo Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, whose name was also on the list.

Celiz was never a congressman.

Meanwhile, former mayor Benhar Tulawie of Talipao town in Sulu, who was also implicated, died of cardiac arrest in 2013.

“If the end brings me out correct, so be it. But if the end bears me wrong, maski sampung anghel magsabi walang kasalanan si Duterte, wala na (even if 10 angels would say Duterte did nothing wrong would not mean anything). (It) does not really matter, because at that time, we are already condemned of committing a wrong. So, I accept full responsibility,” Duterte said.

“That is the way how to act as a President. I will gamble. I have said before, in this presidency, I put at stake my honor, my life and the presidency itself. I’m ready to lose it anytime,” he added.

He said he could be wrong in reading the list out loud “but I have to tell you, according to my mandate, to tell the people.”

The President then made a reference to the media and the executive order on the freedom of information that allows people to look into documents of government transactions or studies.

Duterte said the act of naming names also leads people to come out and explain their side of the story.

Other errors

There were some other alleged errors in Duterte’s list, including Police Officer 3 Filomeno Toronia who died of cardiac arrest while he was assigned with another police unit in Mati City, Davao Oriental in 2013.

Toronia was said to have been relieved sometime in 2006 when he was assigned at the Digos City Police Station before he was assigned in Mati. 

Another was Judge Navidad of the RTC in Calbayog City who was said to have been shot dead in January 2008. 

Rommel Rutor, a media practitioner in Samar and nephew of Navidad, posted a message online.

“That is about nine years ago. Unless we have another Judge Navidad in Calbayog City being referred to by this intel list. Was this list validated, revalidated and updated before it was handed out to the President? Or does his inclusion (in the list) refer to the people behind his killing?” Rutor asked.

Unorthodox style

A senior House leader yesterday said President Duterte is merely being true to form in his unorthodox style of exposing before the public the list of people allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade.

“President Duterte began his career in public service as a prosecutor – that’s his expertise – so now he is showing us exactly how it should be done,” Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles said.

“He is the highest executive in the country, exercising control and supervision over the DOJ (Department of Justice) and all public prosecutors. So if the President wants to act as the highest prosecutor of the land, that is well within his prerogative,” the House appropriations committee chairman said.

He added that the public must understand that the President has access to the most sensitive and classified information.

In a related development, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas informed reporters that Pangasinan Rep. Jesus Celeste – who was among those alleged drug lords named by Duterte but who fell in the mayors’ category – has no explanation to make before them.

“Celeste is now on his third term, which started in 2010. His name was mentioned as a mayor, which obviously was his position before he became a House member,” Fariñas pointed out.

“The House of Representatives has no jurisdiction over his acts or omissions allegedly committed before he became a representative,” he said.

Topnotch information

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said there is good reason why several persons allegedly involved in illegal drugs who are on Duterte’s list are no longer alive or in public service.

Andanar said the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) submitted to the President the list which the agencies have properly vetted to ensure that what the Chief Executive receives is “topnotch” information. – With Edith Regalado, Delon Porcalla, Gerry Lee Gorit, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Jaime Laude

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