MANILA - Senator Antonio Trillanes on Tuesday accused President Rodrigo Duterte of turning the country into the "murder capital of Asia" amid a spate of fatal attacks against priests and local officials.
Trillanes made the allegation a day after Tanauan, Batangas Mayor Antonio Halili, who was on Duterte's list of alleged narcotics-linked officials, was gunned down in front of city government employees during a flag-raising ceremony.
"Duterte's culture of violence is upon us. No one is safe now. Regardless, whether Mayor Halili is involved in the illegal drug trade, nothing justifies this murder," Trillanes said in a statement.
"Now, for someone who promised to restore peace and order in our country during the campaign, it is ironic for a lot of people that Duterte has actually turned the Philippines into the murder capital of Asia," he added.
The opposition senator said Duterte also turned Davao City into the murder capital of the Philippines when he was still its longtime mayor.
The southern city tallied the highest number of murder cases at 1,032 from 2010 to 2015, according to police data.
Duterte's hometown, regarded by many as the country's most peaceful city, also ranked fourth among areas with the highest number of index crimes, which include murder, homicide, robbery, theft, carjacking and physical injury.
The latest police data, however, shows Davao City among areas with the lowest average monthly crime rate.
Trillanes appealed to the police to "fulfill its mandate to protect our citizens from criminals and follow only legal orders from their superiors."
He also called investigative bodies to bring Halili's killer to justice.
Malacañang has vowed justice for Halili, even as Duterte accused the late mayor of pretending to be an anti-crime crusader to hide his alleged illegal activities.
Three other mayors on the "narco-list" have been shot dead, including Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte; Reynaldo "Aldong" Parojinog of Ozamiz City; and Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
In the last 6 months, unidentified assailants also gunned down 3 Catholic priests. Among them were Rev. Fr. Richmond Nilo, Rev. Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura and Rev. Fr. Marcelito Paez.