DAVAO CITY, Philippines – “I told you not to b__s____ me," an annoyed Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte told reporters Tuesday night, May 26, referring to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
The rumored presidential wannabe was reacting to De Lima’s statements regarding public declarations made by the mayor in recent weeks.
Asked to comment on Duterte’s statements that seem to acknowledge his participation in Davao’s so-called death squads, De Lima said these were “simply unacceptable.” If Duterte indeed admitted to being the brains behind these death squads, he should be held criminally liable, said De Lima, former chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights.
Duterte however clarified that he did not mean what he said. When he declared that “it’s true” he’s the “death squad,” he meant it more as a challenge to his critics to file charges against him, the mayor explained Tuesday.
Duterte said De Lima should clarify her statements, too, because he said she’s running for senator in 2016.
This is personal
He also threatened to raise personal issues against her.
"And I will go personal sa iyo sa buhay mo. I will go personal. Eh, ikaw yung nanguna. I told you not to b __ me," Duterte said. (You started this.)
"Kasi nagusap tayo long before the hearings. I told you hindi ko talaga ginagawa yan. Kasi abogado ako. Pareho tayo. Gaga ka ba?" Duterte said. (Because we already talked before these hearings. I told you I really don’t do these things, because I am a lawyer. We’re both lawyers. Are you being foolish?)
Duterte told De Lima to first “look at your own backyard,” such as the problems in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, which is under the jurisdiction of the justice department. "You accused me of extra-judicial killings. Criminal. Secretary ka. Meron tayong sagutan noon at sinabi ko sa 'yo, look at your own backyard, especially Muntinlupa," Duterte said.
"By sheer neglect, culpable neglect, wala kang ginawa. [It was] only recently ni-raid mo. Ngayon lang. You built a Hilton hotel right in Muntinlupa. You allowed it.”
In December last year, the National Bureau of Investigation, upon De Lima's orders, conducted a series of raids in Muntinlupa that yielded luxury items of prisoners and led to the closure of posh prisoner-residences inside the maximum security compound.
"I will make sure that you will have to account for it. It's criminal neglect. Anak ka ng…Nandiyan pumapasok ang preso, lumalabas may droga niluluto sa loob. And you have the gall to accuse me of extra-judicial...puro criminal. So ikaw you fattened them. Pinatambok nimo ang mga criminals sa loob. Yan ang mahirap dahil sinumulan mo," Duterte said. (The prisoners went in and out of jail and even made their own drugs inside. You allowed these criminals to enrich themselves in prison. That's the trouble because you started this [word war].)
Duterte had been tagged as the country's "Punisher" for his unconventional leadership style in Davao. That same style gave rise to Duterte's alleged association with anti-crime and anti-drug vigilantes in the city.
After the New York-based group Human Rights Watch criticized the government for failing to make significant progress in the investigations targeting the Davao Death Squad, De Lima issued a series of statements that reignited her word war with the mayor. (READ: Investigate Duterte's role in death squads)
"You file a case in court and I said I will place you in the witness stand and lecture you about good governance," Duterte said.
He denied that he orders the local police to kill suspected criminals.
Duterte placed 3rd in the latest survey on possible presidential contenders preferred by voters. It was the first time his name was included in the polls, and he tied with the very popular former President Joseph Estrada.
De Lima reacts
In a chance interview on Wednesday at the House of Representatives on Wednesday, De Lima said her call for Duterte's criminal liability has nothing to do with the 2016 polls.
De Lima is seen as a potential contender for the senatorial race.
She said she has criticized the Davao mayor over alleged involvement in vigilante killings even during her time as Commission on Human Rights chair. – with reports from Karlos Manlupig and Buena Bernal/Rappler.com