MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte "requests" the Ombudsman to address to his office cases against police and soldiers related to the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and the war on drugs, the presidential spokesperson said Saturday.
"The President requests that investigations of members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) related to the performance of their duties in the government’s anti-drug campaign or while Mindanao is under martial law be addressed to him," presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
Abella said the chief executive "recognizes and respects the constitutional mandate of the Ombudsman to investigate public officials", but that he would like to assume command responsibility for soldiers and police.
"He assumes command responsibility for the actions of his men as Commander-in-Chief or Chief Executive," the statement read.
Duterte, as the sitting President, has immunity from suit. He has several times spoken in defense of police officers facing cases for carrying out his orders, particularly in the anti-drug campaign.
Critics have meanwhile expressed concerns over abuses that the military might commit while Mindanao remains under martial rule amid ongoing offensives against terrorists in Marawi City.
The military had earlier assured the public that it would guard against abuses.
On Duterte's request, Congress recently extended until the yearend the President's declaration of a 60-day martial law in Mindanao, supposed to lapse on July 22.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales earlier slammed Duterte for meddling in the mandate of her office.
"Anong pakialam niya? Under the law we have subpoena powers. There is no law which requires a soldier or a policeman or any respondent for that matter to seek clearance from anybody," the tough former magistrate said.
Duterte, in a press conference after his second State of the Nation Address, said police and military forces who would be called to Ombudsman and Commission on Human Rights investigations would need his prior approval.
Earlier this month, Duterte and Morales exchanged fiery statements against each other after Morales told Japanese public network NHK that Duterte seemed to be "goading people to kill people."
Morales' nephew, Mans Carpio, is married to Duterte's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.