MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said on Thursday, June 7, that President Rodrigo Duterte apparently referred to "intensifying" the campaign against illegal drugs and crime when the Phiippine leader spoke about "radical changes" he planned to carry out a couple of days ago.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque was asked in a Palace news briefing to specify the "radical changes" that Duterte had mentioned in his speech upon his arrival from a trip to South Korea past midnight Tuesday, June 5.
He said he did not know exactly what the President was referring to, but Duterte apparently made the remark in the context of the killings of prosecutors, including pregnant prosecutor Madonna Tanyag; and reports on muggings.
"What he said, to wait for changes, that is because he wants to intensify the war against criminality and llegal drugs," Roque said.
He said, however, that this should not take away from government data that crime "decreased" under the Duterte administration. The President, he said, merely thinks "there's still room for improvement."
"The President reiterated that while we have been combatting crime and prohibited drugs since day 1 of his administration, apparently, we can do more," said Roque.
The spokesman surmised that it was the murder of Ombudsman prosecutor Madonna Joy Ednaco Tanyag, allegedly at the hands of a drug addict, that prompted Duterte to consider implementing "radical changes."
Tanyag was 5 months pregnant when she was stabbed to death. (READ: 'A life well-lived': Sorority sisters pay tribute to slain Ombudsman prosecutor Madonna Joy Tanyag)
"The President got frustrated because a prosecutor was killed, she was even pregnant. There is news of increase in holdup cases in Metro Manila. So expect that our fight against crime and drugs will intensify," said Roque.
He said he took the initiative to ask Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde whether the President had given him a new "mandate" in relation to the fight against crime, and the top cop told him he was still waiting for instructions from Duterte.
Duterte rose to the presidency on his key campaign promise of ending crime and the illegal drug problem within the first 6 months of his administration.
During the news briefing, Roque also said he had "no information" on the offices to be transferred to the Office of the President, which Duterte had also warned about.
He also could not say why the President mentioned a state of national emergency and martial law declaration in the context of the supposedly upcoming "radical changes" during his speech.
Asked whether this meant that the state of national emergency imposed in September 2016 had been lifted, and would be re-imposed, Roque said he would ask the President about this during the event in Cebu that day that both of them would attend, and issue a statement.
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.