MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte promised to pardon cops and soldiers should they be wrongly accused of abusing their authority as they crack down on drug lords and drug syndicates.
“[A] President can grant pardon, conditional or absolute, or grant amnesty with the concurrence of Congress. Gagamitin ko ‘yan. Maniwala kayo (I will use that, believe me),” he said on Sunday night, July 17, during a fellowship dinner with his San Beda Law School batchmates at Malacañang Palace.
Duterte has been mentioning his plan to use presidential pardon to protect cops and the military since the presidential campaign.
As before, he said he would only pardon cops and military who “tell the truth” and who were wrongly accused of abusing their authority.
“Mag-trabaho kayo. ‘Wag kayong mag-imbento. Do not fabricate evidence. I will hear you. And if you’re telling the truth, sabihin mo ako. 'Utos ni Mayor Rody,'” he said.
(Do your job. Don't invent. Don't fabricate evidence. I will hear you. And if you're telling the truth, tell them it was me. 'It was Mayor Rody's orders.')
The president said such law enforcers can easily obtain “pre-signed” forms indicating he has pardoned them for their crimes.
“Kaya pagdating ng panahon, ‘pag sabi arraignment, magkuha ka diyan. Maraming kopya ‘yan, pre-signed. Maski ‘yung walang mga kasalanan, pwedeng kumuha diyan. Bigay mo sa judge. 'Absolute pardon, restored to full and civil rights,'” said Duterte.
(When the time for arraignment comes, get from there. There will be many copies, pre-signed. Even those without fault can get one. Give it to the judge. 'Absolute pardon, restored to full and civil rights.')
He said he would “not hesitate to pardon 10, 15 military and policemen everyday” since the Constitutional provision that gives the president power to pardon does not state any limits on how many people can be pardoned and how often pardoning power can be used.
'Don't lie to me'
Duterte made no mention of how he would verify if the cops and soldiers he pardons are telling him the truth.
But he warned law enforcers that they will face the barrel of the gun if they lie to him.
“Sabi ko, lahat ng pulis, sabi ko, 'Do not lie to me.' Babarilin talaga,” he said.
(I'll tell all the police, 'Do not lie to me.' You will get shot.)
On the campaign trail, Duterte said the presidential pardon would be his weapon against trumped-up charges thrown against law enforcers by powerful drug syndicates in order to intimidate them.
Drug lords and other high-profile criminals have enough resources to file cases against police and military and bribe members of the judiciary to ensure the law enforcers are found guilty, he has said while campaigning.
“Ipitin ninyo ako, ganoon ang mangyari (If you force me to a corner, that's what will happen),” said Duterte.
Presidential pardon is given to those already convicted for a crime, those found guilty by courts. Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who Duterte offered to pardon, supposedly declined the offer because it would require her to plead guilty.
Arroyo herself used her power to pardon former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada in 2007 after he was convicted of plunder.
Duterte pardons Duterte
Duterte joked that he would use his presidential pardon to pardon himself, a joke he had often used during his presidential campaign.
“So pag-alis ko ng Malacañang, dito mag-pirma ako (When I leave Malacañang, I will sign here): ‘Pardon is hereby granted to Rodrigo Duterte, signed Rodrigo Duterte,’” he said to a laughing audience.
Hundreds of suspected drug lords and drug pushers have been killed in the few weeks that Duterte has been in power. Most of them died during police operations. But some were found dead, left by their killers in alleyways or streets, suggesting they were killed extrajudicially.
Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa denies that police were responsible for these supposed extrajudicial killings, saying these were most likely the work of drug syndicates themselves.
But lawmakers have raised alarm, vowing to conduct investigations into anti-drug police operations.
Duterte and some of his fellow Cabinet appointees have shrugged off the criticism. Duterte has said it is not his job to provide due process to drug suspects.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.