MANILA, Philippines – Don’t misinterpret what he said.
This is what the party mate of president-elect Rodrigo Duterte said after public outrage on Duterte's statement on media killings.
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, president of PDP-Laban, defended the statement of the incoming leader that corrupt journalists were legitimate targets of assassination.
He claimed Duterte only said that the Constitution could not protect someone – whether a member of the media or business person – who wronged others from violence.
“Do not mistake or misinterpret the statement of the president. Ang sinabi lang naman ng president (What the president only said is that) we have freedom of the press, but we also have to be responsible in exercising it,” Pimentel said on Wednesday, June 1.
Duterte on Tuesday night said journalists are not exempted from killings if they’re “a son of a bitch” and corrupt. (READ: Duterte on killings: Corrupt journalists asked for it)
"Most of those killed, to be frank, have done something. You won't be killed if you don't do anything wrong," Duterte said.
Duterte added freedom of expression provisions in the Constitution did not necessarily protect a person from violent repercussions for defamation.
"That can't be just freedom of speech. The Constitution can no longer help you if you disrespect a person," he said.
While Duterte did not mention it, Pimentel claimed the incoming leader meant that those who use violence against people – whether journalist or not – must be brought to justice.
“Given the nature of the Filipino, sometimes they resort to violence. And the Constitution cannot protect you from violence. What has not been stated (by Duterte) is that these people who violated the law by employing violence must be brought to justice,” he added.
When reporters pointed out that Duterte did not say it, Pimentel said:
“That’s why mini-misinterpret niyo nga (That's why you misinterpret it). Alam niyo naman 'yon lang ang na-omit na sinabi, sinabi lang niya na may nasaktan, yung nasaktan (You know that's the only thing omitted. He just said someone was hurt, the one hurt) took the law into his own hands, employed violent means. Therefore, you cannot use the Constitution to protect you," he said.
“Ang sabi nga ni incoming President Duterte, gusto niya ibalik death penalty sa drugs, rapists and murderers. Di pa ba klaro 'yon? (As what incoming President Duterte said, he wants the return of death penalty on those who use and push drugs, rapists, and murderers. Isn't it clear enough?) These people are also murderers and must be brought to the bars of justice,” he added.
Duterte, in his press conference, cited the case of Jun Pala, a journalist and politician who was murdered in Davao in 2003. Gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead Pala, who was a vocal critic of Duterte. His murder has not been solved to this day.
"If you are an upright journalist, nothing will happen to you…The example here is Pala. I do not want to diminish his memory but he is a rotten son of a bitch. He deserved it,” he said. – with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, 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