Your words have weight of policy, Hontiveros reminds Duterte

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
Your words have weight of policy, Hontiveros reminds Duterte

Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday shot back at President Rodrigo Duterte and reminded him that his words have the weight of policy. Risa Hontiveros/Released, File

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday shot back at President Rodrigo Duterte and reminded him that his tough words against criminals would have an effect of policy a day after the chief executive blasted her for making it appear that the recent deaths of two teenagers are part of government policy.

Hontiveros said that Duterte cannot deny that his words or those of any head of state would be construed by government personnel as official.

She added that Duterte has a "well-documented record of encouraging violence" against drug suspects.

"When they come from a president, these are not just words. They have the effect and weight of policy," Hontiveros said. "Understanding this idea is the reason why presidents and heads of state practice diplomacy, because they are keenly aware of the effect their words have on their citizens, much more on the state's uniformed services."

Duterte, known for making off-the-cuff remarks, has had his words "contextualized" or otherwise explained or walked back by his spokespersons and subordinates.

On Wednesday, the president called Hontiveros stupid for saying that two deaths amounted to a policy of killings on the part of the government.

“Do you think two killings, even if it’s illegal, would make a policy?” Duterte asked during a press conference after attending an awards ceremony in Taguig City.

Addressing Hontiveros, Duterte said: " “Dalawang patay. Palagay na natin, pinatay – murder o… I ask Hontiveros, ‘Is that already a policy? Is that the baseline of a policy?’ Paka-bobo naman niya."

During a Senate panel hearing into the death of 17-year-old Kian Loyd Delos Santos, Hontiveros, citing the teenager's death, grilled Philippine National Police Director General Ronald Dela Rosa about a supposed pattern of killing drug suspects.

One of the boys killed, 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz, was supposedly shot after robbing a taxi driver. Police said they found shabu and marijuana on him.

Dela Rosa, also known as "Bato," pushed back against the suggestion and broke down in tears at the Senate for the second time in his tenure as the Philippines' top cop.

“I am grieving for the majority of my men. Yung buhay nila naka…tapos i-accuse niyo kami ng pulisiya na ganun. Ang sakit, ang sakit. Magpakatamay kami para sa inosenteng tao. Mahirap naman sabihin niyo na may policy na malawakang pagpatay,” a weeping Dela Rosa said.

Hontiveros: Thousands have died without government remorse

Hontiveros said that the thousands of deaths without government remorse or action would amount to a state-sanctioned program of eliminating drug suspects.

"Eight to 13 thousand have already died in this bloody war on drugs, mostly from the ranks of the poor," said Hontiveros, who belongs to the minority caucus in the Senate.

The deaths of these individuals were not accidental as someone must have ordered them, according to the senator.

She asked, " How could the number of dead reach such catastrophic levels if there is no guiding principle and policy behind it?"

Some government officials such as Ernesto Abella, the presidential spokesperson, and Persida Acosta, the chief of the Public Attorney's Office, already acknowledged this pattern.

"Justifying the recent killing of 69 suspects in Bulacan, Caloocan and Manila in just one week last month, the president's spokesperson said that there is 'rhyme and reason' behind the killings," Hontiveros said.

Acosta meanwhile was quoted in a radio interview admitting such a pattern She later said she meant there were similarities in the deaths of the two teens.

Hontiveros said that Duterte's words and actions led to the killings.

She also accused the president of soiling the image of the Philippine National Police and inspiring "a culture of killing and impunity" among its ranks.

"I call on the honest and selfless rank-and-file members and leaders of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to help us stop this climate of death," Hontiveros said.

She added, "It's time to end this madness. Let us redeem the reputation and integrity of the PNP. We start this by rejecting the policy that encourages the culture of killing."

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