MANILA –President Rodrigo Duterte did not break any law when he publicly named five police officials allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said.
Panelo said Duterte, as a lawyer and former prosecutor, knows full well his legal limits.
"There is is no violation of any law. In fact, dapat magpasalamat sila kasi kung tsinismis ka lang wala kang pagkakataon na ipaglaban ang sarili mo," Duterte told ABS-CBN News.
Panelo also claimed Duterte had been gathering evidence since last year, even before he was elected president.
Panelo denied that Duterte is subjecting the cops to ''trial by publicity'' because the side of the accused and their denials were aired immediately after the president's pronouncement.
"Hindi totoo ang trial by publicity. [It] will come only when may inakusahan ka at ang media concentrate on the accusation at 'di mo pinagbigyan ang kabila to air their side," he said.
Duterte on Tuesday named Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr. (retired), Chief Superintendent Vicente Loot (retired), Chief Superintendent Bernardo Diaz, Director Joel Pagdilao, and Chief Superintendent Edgardo Tinio as the police officials involved in the illegal drug trade.
The five police generals have all denied the allegations. Publicly shamed by the president, they decried the supposed lack of due process and said the president was fed with the wrong information.
To this, Panelo said: "Binibigyan nga sila ng due process to defend themselves. Appropriate charges will be filed after the investigation is made by the Napolcom (National Police Commission)."
Panelo said aside from the information and witnesses Duterte already had, more came forward to strengthen the case against the generals.
Asked to react to legal experts' opinion that Duterte should have presented evidence first, Panelo said Duterte knows that this would come after the investigation and filing of cases.
Panelo said Duterte actually gave the generals a chance to air their side before their respective cases reach the courts.
"President Duterte won't be saying anything without valid sources. He is now the president of the Philippines and he has access to information," he said.
Panelo added, the generals should have come out to clear their names even before Duterte won the presidency. This, as he alleged that the generals were aware that their names were on the list of officials supposedly involved in the illegal drug trade.
"Matagal na iyan. Isang taon na sinasabi iyan at binibigyan niya ng pagkakaton na sabihin na lang nila," he said.
Panelo said Duterte remains open to talking with police officials being linked to the illegal drug trade. He added, the president has more names of police officials involved in the illegal business and is in the process of verifying their involvement.