The president of the Philippines’ recent admission that he personally killed criminals as mayor could cost him his presidency, some Filipino lawmakers claim.
President Rodrigo Duterte bragged Monday that he murdered suspected criminals just to show cops how to kill when he was mayor. “In Davao, I used to do it personally. Just to show to the guys (police) that if I can do it, why can’t you,” he said during a speech at the presidential palace.
“I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble. I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill,” he added.
While some brushed the president’s comments off as his “usual bravado,” critics quickly seized the opportunity to call out Duterte for engaging in blatantly illegal behavior.
“That is betrayal of public trust and that constitutes high crimes because mass murders certainly fall into the category of high crimes. And high crimes is a ground for impeachment under the constitution,” Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, a fierce critic who openly opposes the president and his drug war, told CNN Thursday.
“We Filipinos are God fearing because we’re a Catholic country and therefore we all know the killing is bad, killing is insane, killing is against the law of both man and the law of God,” she said.
De Lima has challenged Duterte multiple times, usually attempting to pin responsibility for extrajudicial killings in the president’s drug war on the president himself.
An estimated 6,000 people have been killed in less than six months in Duterte’s “shoot-to-kill” drug war.
De Lima tried to investigate Duterte’s role in the September deaths; however, she was quickly removed from her position as chair of the investigative committee and accused of corruption. She received death threats and was forced to flee her home.
“When he says that, he’s opening himself up, so what’s the legal way, then go ahead and impeach him,” Philippine Sen. Richard Gordon, who leads the Senate Justice Committee, argued.
“By boasting about the blood on his own hands, President Duterte will further embolden police and vigilantes to blatantly violate laws and carry out more extrajudicial executions without fear of being held to account,” Rafendi Djamin, the regional director of Amnesty International, said in a statement.
Duterte’s supporters quickly rushed to the president’s defense.
“Just because you kill suspects does not mean you have violated the law,” Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said in response to calls for the president’s impeachment.
“It could be done with a justifiable cause and justified circumstances as a public officer in order to arrest, but the suspect fought. He must have been forced to kill.”
Aguirre downplayed Duterte’s comments as an exaggeration.
“It’s like a hyperbole, that’s the president, he is used to exaggerate just to put his message across,” he explained.
Duterte’s legislative allies claim that critics would never be able to secure the necessary support required to impeach the president.
Among Filipinos, Duterte has a “very good” approval rating, with 77 percent of those surveyed in favor of the president; conversely, survey participants said that Duterte could curse a little less when dealing with foreign countries and leaders.
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