MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senator Leila de Lima on Tuesday, August 2, said President Rodrigo Duterte's soaring popularity should not be made as an excuse to support drug-related killings.
“A 91% approval rating for the President and what he stands for is a formidable record. But we cannot base our reactions to these killings on the popularity of the President. Popular or not, murder must stop. S-T-O-P. STOP. Stop the killings now!” De Lima said in her first privilege speech as a senator.
Philippine National Police (PNP) records show that close to 400 drug suspects have been killed in police operations from July 1 to August 1, 2016. Separate counts by various media outlets put the number to at least 500 or more.
De Lima said the killings are “illegal” and “immoral” – a "do-it-yourself justice system."
She cited notable cases – from Metro Manila to North Cotabato – with “telltale signs” that the killings were done summarily.
“Never mind the police investigation, never mind the public prosecutor, never mind the courts and judges. This is DO-IT-YOURSELF Justice at work. All you need is an acrylic marker, a cardboard, some packing tape, and of course, something to stab or shoot the victim with. And there is no filing fee.”
“In the campaign against criminality, we cannot applaud criminal methods merely because we are left unaffected. Life has more value than an accusation written on a piece of cardboard, whether you are rich, or a scum of the earth,” she added.
The senator formally asked the Senate to hold an investigation on the killings even as she blasted allies of President Duterte for trying to intimidate her through allegations linking her to drugs.
Citing international law and the country’s Bill of Rights, De Lima said that “the right to life is the most ancient and most basic of all human rights.”
“Ang magagandang layunin ng gyera laban sa droga ay nasisira nitong mga karumal-dumal na pagpatay. Tandaan sana natin na ang pagpatay na walang katwiran at walang legal na basehan ay krimeng malinaw. Ito ay iligal. Ito ay imoral,” De Lima said.
(The good objectives of the war against drugs are destroyed by these killings. Let us remember that killings without legal basis or reason is a clear form of crime. This is illegal. This is immoral.)
De Lima's speech did not sit well with Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte's running mate in the May 2016 polls.
After the speech, Cayetano motioned to interpellate De Lima. But the lady senator, citing Senate rules, refused to be asked questions.
Cayetano was left with no option but to deliver an apparent privilege speech of his own to defend Duterte and the government's fight against drugs.
"If the problem was too big for the Aquino administration and the secretary, sya na rin po nagsabi kanina na it was too big, but this President, sinabi nya titignan ko sa mga mata ang mga pusher na ito at hindi ko sila aatrasan (he said I will look these pushers in the eye and I will not back down). Never ko po narinig sa kanya na yung mga walang laban patayin (I never heard him say that those who are powerless should be killed)," Cayetano said.
"Never sinabi ng ating Pangulo ang murder ay di paparusahan. In fact sinabi nya patay kayo sa akin mga pulis pag umabuso kayo," he added.
(Our President never said that murder would not be punished. In fact, he warned the police that they would answer to him if they abuse power.)
De Lima's colleagues in the Liberal Party, senators Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan, also raised concern on the recent increase in the number of drug-related killings. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org