Manny Pacquiao Fights For Duterte, Ousts Senator Investigating Death Squad Hits

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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Boxer-turned-politician Manny Pacquiao called for the removal of the official investigating Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war killings and death squad hits in the Philippines, according to multiple reports.

Local politics in the Philippines have become increasingly divided after a surprise testimony earlier in September that linked Duterte to over 1,000 death squad murders before he became president.

One of Duterte’s harshest critics, Sen. Leila de Lima, was accused of trying to take down the president, which prompted calls for her to be removed from her position as chair of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Pacquiao, a Philippines senator and former boxing star, filed a motion Monday to remove De Lima from her position as committee chairman. Pacquiao’s motion passed 16-4, leaving the committee chairmanship temporarily vacant, revealed CNN. De Lima will be replaced by Sen. Richard Gordon, who is reportedly much more “neutral” than his predecessor.

During a Senate committee hearing held to investigate police and vigilante killings in the president’s war on drugs Sept. 15., De Lima brought forward Edgar Matobato, a self-proclaimed death squad hitman, to testify he killed for Duterte and his son when the two served as mayor and deputy mayor.

Matobato said that he killed journalists, dissidents, and political rivals. He also claimed he chopped up bodies and fed people to crocodiles.

The presidential palace has denied all accusations.

“I am not the one who has tainted the image of the Senate and the country; what truly destroys this is the continued killings in our country,” De Lima said before she was removed from her position.

Senate committees “are tasked with shaping policy direction and crafting legislative reforms. Unfortunately, under the leadership of Senator De Lima, the committee on justice had become a hollow vehicle for the fulfillment of personal political vendettas,” Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said, justifying De Lima’s dismissal.

Human Rights Watch called De Lima’s removal as “reprisal for her inquiry into the surge of killings” associated with Duterte.

Before Pacquiao filed his motion Monday, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano accused De Lima of trying to use the committee to bring down Duterte. De Lima and Duterte have been long-time political rivals since she tried to tie the president to the Davao Death Squad (DDS) murders when she was head of the Commission on Human Rights.

De Lima is now facing a hearing of her own. The House of Representatives, which is filled with Duterte allies, is investigating the presence of illegal drugs at New Bilibid Prison during her time as justice secretary. Twelve inmates are scheduled to testify against De Lima. “I was warned already about their evil design and insidious moves, such as the fabrication of evidence,” De Lima said of the hearing.

“If I were De Lima, ladies and gentleman, I’d hang myself,” Duterte told a crowd of supporters in August.

After De Lima’s dismissal, Duterte said he would continue his war on drugs. “I don’t care if there are 1,000 hearings everywhere…I will not stop…I will really kill all the drug lords,” explained the Philippines president.

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