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Duterte to Sereno: I'm just doing my duty

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte reacted to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's concern over his list of judges and other public officials allegedly linked to the drug trade, saying it's his job to inform the public of such matters.

"Ma'am, my words are not accusatorial, it is not criminal information, it's just my word against the others because I have a duty to tell the public so they know of the dangers facing our country and the people who are contributing to the drug trade," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Duterte gave a press briefing early morning on Tuesday, August 9, in Davao City.

He said he plans to write a letter to Sereno in response. 

"Susulatan ko rin si (I will also write to), out of respect to the SC, I will answer," he said. 

In her letter, Sereno pointed out that Duterte did not explain in what way the judges he named were involved in illegal drugs. Four out of the 7 judges also do not have jurisdiction over drug cases while one was killed in 2008, she said. (READ: FULL TEXT: Sereno's letter to President Duterte)

Asked by media to explain the extent of participation of the judges in the drug trade, Duterte said, "Intervention." But instead of elaborating, the President simply gave assurances that there is sound basis for naming them.

"Ma'am, hindi lalabas ang pangalan diyan – as early as 5 years ago, nandiyan 'yung pangalan," he said.

(Ma'am, those names would not have appeared – as early as 5 years ago, their names were already on the list.)

As for the fact that one of the judges died years ago, Duterte said that does not affect the credibility of the list.

"It's not corrected but it remains on record. Hindi naman kami pinapaalam kung patay ka o hindi, basta nandiyan ang pangalan mo (We are not told if you are dead or not, but your name is there)," he said.  

Duterte said that "death is a private affair of the family" and is "not announced to the rest of the world," except through obituaries or if someone would inform the intelligence community.

The President again expressed his impatience with the justice system.

"Otherwise, kung maghintay lang ako ng huli-huli araw-araw, isa-isa, tapos abugado tapos mag-trial tayo, pagkatapos ng trial convicted ka, mag appeal ka, Court of Appeals, Supreme Court, it would take 10 years for one individual," he said. 

(Otherwise, if I wait for them to get caught one by one, day by day, then they get a lawyer and we go to trial, then you get convicted, you try for an appeal, it would take 10 years for one individual.)

"We are agreed there is a crisis. How am I now to meet the challenges of this crisis?" he asked. 

Duterte is set to name more officials linked to the drug trade as part of his nationwide campaign against drugs. (READ: Mayors on Duterte list deny links to drugs)

The campaign has gained nationwide and international criticism from various groups who say Duterte's methods circumvent due process and encourage extrajudicial killings.

The President, however, in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 25, said his administration will be "sensitive to the State's obligations to promote, and protect, fulfill the human rights of our citizens, especially the poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable." – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

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 pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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