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MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said Senator Leila De Lima has yet to prove he is behind the extrajudicial killings in Davao City, one of the accusations of witness Edgar Matobato during a Senate investigation De Lima helmed.
"Maraming namatay dito, totoo 'yan, but prove na ako ang pumatay at kung sino," said Duterte on Tuesday, September 20, during an event in Davao City.
Though he did not name De Lima explicitly, he spoke of a "Delilah," a nickname he has used before to refer to her.
"Si Delilah, 1,000. Sabihin ko sa kanya (I'll tell her), name the 10th victim. Isang question ko lang (I just have one question): so there have been about 500, who was the guy, the 500th who was killed and on what day and how it was done?" said Duterte.
The President even invited witnesses to go to Davao City so he can cross-examine them.
"Pumunta sila dito, ako ang mag cross-examine sa kanila (They go here so I can cross-examine them). Who was the first victim? Who was the second? What was the name? Where did it happen?" he said.
Fault of 'enemies'
Duterte claimed his "enemies" in Davao City are responsible for portraying him as behind the extrajudicial killings.
"Meron dito, mga kalaban ko for whatever reason – kung sino pumatay, it does not really matter – kukunan ng picture and then it was made into a folder with so many folders there, victims of crimes against persons, nasali lahat doon," he said.
(Here I have enemies who, for whatever reason – it does not really matter who killed them – they will take a picture of the body and then it was made into a folder, victims of crimes against persons, all were included there.)
Duterte said he chose to respond to these past accusations with sarcasm.
"'Napaka gago naman ninyo. Eh kung talagang killer ako, I've been mayor here 23 years, 'yan lang ipakita ninyo sa akin? Karami kong tinapon diyan sa Samal Island na Davao Gulf 'yan lang nakita mo?' I raised it to the level of sarcasm," he said.
('You are insane. If I were really a killer, I've been mayor here for 23 years, that's all you can show? I've dumped so many bodies in Samal Island, Davao Gulf.' I raised it to the level of sarcasm.)
But Duterte admitted he has ordered the deaths of certain criminals. Previously, he had already admitted to ordering that criminals be shot if they posed a threat to law enforcers.
"Sinabi ko, umalis kayo dito if you're into drugs, murder for hire. Umalis kayo kasi 'pag hindi, papatayin ko kayo and in the process marami akong pinatay upon my direction, walang problema 'yan," he said.
(I said, get out if you're into drugs, murder for hire. Get out because if you don't, I'll kill you and in the process I had many killed, no problem there.)
Duterte also cautioned people from equating his colorful threats against criminals to actual acts of extrajudicial executions.
Specifically, he criticized members of the European Parliament for using his threats as proof that he is behind the recent spate of extrajudicial killings.
"Putang ina ka, istorya mo lang 'yan. Kung ginawa ko, ibang storya 'yan," he said. (Son of a whore, that's just your story. If I really did it, that's another story.)
Simply threatening criminals is not a crime, Duterte added.
"Look at these idiots, they’re using a phrase, a narrative of my speeches before threatening criminals. Now let me ask you stupid lawyers of the other countries, is there a law in the Philippines that would make it illegal for a mayor, president, or governor to threaten criminals?" he said.
Duterte chose to issue his challenge to De Lima the day after she was ousted as chair of the Senate committee on justice. As such, she will not be presiding over future hearings on extrajudicial killings.
Senators who voted to oust her said she was too "anti-administration", thus supposedly compromising the impartiality of the investigation.
Senator Richard Gordon, the new justice committee chairperson, has promised an objective investigation.
Duterte's challenge also comes on the first day of a House probe into De Lima's alleged involvement in the Bilibid prison drug trade. De Lima claimed the probe, launched by Duterte's allies in the House, is meant to discredit her. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.