Palace reminds Duterte: We don't just shoot criminals
MANILA, Philippines – Just like Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Malacañang does not find amusing the tough talk that a famous city mayor made at a Senate hearing into rice smuggling.
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte told senators on Monday, February 3, that if he caught alleged smuggler Davidson Bangayan (aka David Tan) in the act of unloading illegal goods in his city, “I’ll gladly kill him!”
The Palace reminded Duterte that the rule of law must be followed even in dealing with criminals.
"All government officials, whether local or national, have the basic responsibility to uphold the rule of law," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said in a briefing on Tuesday, February 4.
During the hearing Senator Jinggoy Estrada asked Duterte if he was ready to face the consequences of taking the law in his hands. The mayor said: “I’m old. I’m sickly. I could spend the remaining days of my life in prison. I can read books and while away my time.”
Duterte lamented the slow pace of the national government’s campaign against smuggling. “The trouble with us in government is that we talk too much, act too slow, and do too little, don't we?” he said.
The justice chief found the mayor’s remarks unfair and disturbing, citing achievements in prosecuting smugglers.
Coloma said the Aquino administration is introducing reforms in the system to address smuggling and supposed loopholes in the criminal justice system.
On Monday, shortly after Duterte’s appearance at the Senate, Coloma said in another briefing with Palace reporters that the slow progress in the combatting smuggling was not the fault of the executive branch of government.
He said cases had been filed against alleged smugglers, but it’s the courts that had been taking too long to resolve them.
The Bureau of Customs' Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement Ariel Nepomuceno took note of Duterte's frustration, saying this serves as a challenge to the bureau to perform better.
“We understand Mayor Duterte's frustration with the bureau.... That must be taken as a positive challenge for BOC to look inwards. Thus, we must continue with the current reform agenda so that we can serve the public well and deliver the President’s expectations,” Nepomuceno said.
Agaton Uvero, Deputy Commissioner for the Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group, pointed out that suspected big-time smugglers have temporarily stopped operations.
This is an indication that the reforms being taken by BOC are bearing fruit, he said. “Sooner or later, it would be a lot more difficult to play with the Bureau of Customs."
Senators: Duterte threat 'figurative'
Despite the statements from Malacañang, the Commission on Human Rights and De Lima, senators took the mayor’s statement lightly and said it was “figurative.”
Senate President Franklin Drilon said, “Kasama na lahat iyan sa ating positioning, siguro out of desperation, si Mayor Digong had to say that.” (That’s part of our positioning that maybe out of desperation, Mayor Digong had to say that.)
Senate agriculture committee chairperson Cynthia Villar said Duterte’s statement was not meant to be taken literally.
“Hindi iyon patay kung patay. Parang nagagalit lang siya sa mga criminal kaya kapag siya ay naiinis sinasabi niya na papatayin ko. But never na pinatay niya, for me ha.”
(It’s not really that he will kill the person. He was just angry at criminals that’s why he says he will kill them. But he never killed them, for me at least.)
Villar added, “You see that when a mayor in Mindanao is not tough, many people take advantage.”
The son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr agreed, saying Duterte was just running the city the way he knew best. He said he understood the mayor’s anger at people who abuse poor farmers.
“I guess every local government official will have to find how they can address rice smuggling,” Marcos said.
Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, who called Duterte his friend, said the mayor was entitled “to express his opinion about certain things.”
“Kasuhan nila kung meron silang ginawang ganoon pero wala pa akong matatandaang ginawa niyang ganoon. Magarbo [lang siya] magsalita. Alam mo, huwag mong gagalitin si Mayor at kaya niyang panindigan ang sinasabi niya, kilala ko yun eh.”
(They should file a case against him if he makes good on the threat but I am not aware of him doing anything like that. He just talks tough. You know, you shouldn’t anger Mayor because he can do what he says. I know him.) – with a report from Ayee Macaraig / Rappler.com