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Rody assumes ‘full legal responsibility’

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star

SAN MIGUEL, Bulacan, Philippines – Amid allegations that he ordered the killing of several criminals, President Duterte stressed yesterday that he is ready to be jailed “alone” for waging a bloody war against illegal drugs.

Addressing members of the Army’s 1st Scout Ranger Regiment, Duterte said security forces should not worry about facing charges when running after drug offenders.

“In accordance with my order, I will assume full legal responsibility and I will go to jail alone. That’s the guarantee I can give you,” Duterte said.

“For all the things you do that are connected with your work, I will take charge. I am ready to be imprisoned,” he added.

Duterte issued the remarks hours after Edgar Matobato accused Duterte of ordering the killing of several criminals when he was mayor of Davao City.

In yesterday’s hearing of the Senate committee on justice chaired by Sen. Leila de Lima, Matobato said he was a member of the Davao Death Squad and that President Duterte formed the DDS to kill suspected criminals.

But the President did not make any reference to the Senate hearing during his speech, which lasted for more than 38 minutes.

Duterte said that he was a favorite “whipping boy” in Davao City because of his aggressive campaign against drugs. He said there was even a time when he opposed the relief of police officials who carried out his anti-drug crackdown.

“Twenty-seven generals were recommended for dismissal…I almost waged a revolution. I did not allow it to happen. Son of a whore, don’t give me that b*lls**t,” the President said.

“Just do your job and we’re okay,” he added.

Officials said there are about 3.7 million drug addicts in the Philippines, prompting Duterte to elevate the problem into a national security issue.

He has tapped the military to assist in addressing the drug problem, which he said has reached “epidemic” proportions.

Close to 3,000 suspected drug offenders have been slain, about half of them in law enforcement operations, since Duterte assumed office last June 30.

Security officials claimed the more than 1,000 people who were killed by policemen resisted arrest.

Duterte reminded policemen and soldiers anew to shoot drug lords when they feel that their lives are in danger. He is also planning to come up with a reward system for law enforcers who will kill drug lords.

Presidential communications secretary Martin Andanar said he believes Duterte did not order the killings contrary to the allegations of Matobato.

“Do I think, he is capable? No, I don’t think he is capable of giving a directive like that,” Andanar said.

“That has been investigated before by the Commission on Human Rights, when the President was still mayor (of Davao City). No charges were filed and they did not see any evidence,” he added.

In a press briefing, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella cautioned the public to carefully weigh the statements of the witness.

“After all, people do make statements every day and while this person may sound credible, it is imperative that each and everyone of us properly weigh whatever he said and respond right,” he said.

He also maintained that the administration’s “platform is the desire to have a peaceful, crime-free, corruption-free nation… and this vision is not changed.”

“The President continues to exercise political will and I believe we should, we all need to continue rallying around the desire to have a nation that is a nation for everyone, and that there’s space for everyone,” he added.

Nograles: Witness is a ‘liar’

Former speaker Prospero Nograles and his son Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles also denied the statement of Matobato that the DDS killed four of their bodyguards.

The Dutertes and Nograleses have been political enemies until Duterte aspired for and won the presidency. The elder Nograles lost the mayoral post in Davao City twice to Duterte.

“As far as I know, there’s not a single incident that any of my staff or security personnel who were assigned to me while I was still in politics was killed even when I ran for mayor in 2010. They are all alive up to now,” the older Nograles said in a statement.

“Furthermore, witness could have asked speaker’s protection when I was at the height of power and could have gotten legislative protection program security safe house etc. But he did not!” he added.

The younger Nograles said from the time he was his father’s chief of staff until he was elected congressman last May, “no supporter of ours or person under our employ was ever killed due to politics.”

“I don’t know what this guy is talking about,” he said in a statement.

“Political differences in our city have always been strictly on the level of difference in policy and style; it has never degraded to the level of violence.

“That is why it is easy for us to set aside our differences and unite for the common good of Davao and the nation. I can only suspect that this guy is being manipulated by some people to serve their own interests,” he added.

Matobato also said his group, accompanied by now National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director Dante Gierran, kidnapped a man in Sarangani and fed him to crocodiles at a lake in Digos City in Davao del Sur.

NBI spokesman Ferdinand Lavin said Gierran just “laughed off” Matobato’s claims.

“He told me out of everything Matobato said, 90 percent was pure hearsay. Matobato cannot even remember the dates,” Lavin said.

De Lima trying to soften impact of probe on her

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez also defended Duterte, his long-time ally.

“There’s nothing new there. I think he is a recycled witness. I come from Davao and I know nothing about such thing as Davao Death Squad. Diehard Duterte Supporter, not Davao Death Squad. Me, I am a member of the DDS,” he said in jest.

Alvarez theorized that De Lima is just trying to soften the impact on her of the investigation of the House of Representatives on the proliferation of illegal drugs at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) during her term as justice secretary.

“You will be surprised next week because there will be new witnesses who will surface and testify against people involved in the proliferation of illegal drugs at the NBP,” he added. - Jess Diaz, Ghio Ong, Edith Regalado, Delon Porcalla

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