DAVAO CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte discussed his administration's anti-drug crusade and his desire to restore the death penalty with some of his new allies from the executive and legislative branch, late Saturday evening.
Among the lawmakers who were part of the meeting that started around 9:30 p.m. at the After Dark Resto Bar were senators Sonny Angara and Alan Peter Cayetano, Palawan 1st District Rep. Franz Josef Alvarez, Masbate 3rd District Rep. Scott Davies Lanete, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco, and Citizen's Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) Partylist Rep. Sherwin Tugna.
Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, Bataan Governor Albert Raymond Garcia, Tarlac Governor Susan Yap, Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano, and Manila Councilor Irwin Tieng were also present in the five-hour meeting described as “casual and cordial.”
Though the chart that identified drug-tainted local executives was shown to Duterte’s guests, the president did not give details about his master plan on the war on drugs.
Reviving the death penalty
The 71-year-old chief executive, however, made it clear that “one of his wishes was the re-imposition of the death penalty.”
“He mentioned that so many officials are involved. Parang treason 'yun sa kanya kasi sila dapat yung magprotekta, sila pa naging cause ng paglaganap sa bansa,” Angara said.
Before he took his oath of office, Duterte already told House leaders that he prefers to publicly hang criminals instead of killing them via lethal injection.
(READ: Duterte favors hanging, not lethal injection)
Lawmakers who were in the gathering assured the chief executive that “they will support whatever measure he submits to Congress.”
“Like 'yung death penalty, we will be open to that. We will listen to the arguments,” Angara said.
“Feeling ko conscience vote yun, parang RH (Reproductive Health) bill din. Marami siguro, pag-iisipan nila ng mabuti at maiinfluence sila ng mga religious beliefs nila,” the senator added.
Tugna said Duterte did not specifically request for new anti-drug laws to be passed as existing measures are already in place.
“Ako, personally, naniniwala ako na ang batas naman nandiyan na: Republic Act 9165, Dangerous Drugs Act. It’s all about implementation,” Tugna said.
“I believe he (Duterte) has a good track record of implementing it,” the partylist representative added.
Drug testing for congressmen
Aside from pushing for Duterte-approved laws, some lawmakers said they are also willing to undergo drug testing to assure the president that his allies are not drug-tainted.
“(I’m open to undergo drug testing) Just to show that we are in good faith. It should be done to because public officials should be the first ones to show and set a good example,” Tugna said.
Philippine National Police Chief Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa has subjected members of the police force to random drug tests starting on his first day as chief of police.
(READ: Dela Rosa orders surprise drug test on PNP officials)
Traveling to Davao for a meeting
After the five-hour discussion at the After Dark Resto Bar, the president gave his guests a tour of the Central 911 headquarters.
The president and his allies parted ways at around 3:30 a.m.
Duterte’s visitors who came all the way from Manila said they made an effort to come to Davao as the president feels more at home in this southern metropolis.
“It’s different, parang mas relaxed siya ngayon. Siguro dahil nandito siya sa comfort zone sa Davao, so it’s probably better,” Angara said.
Lawmakers said they are glad that under the new administration, there are opportunities where the chief executive casually meets with congressmen to discuss the administration’s priorities.
The Aquino-led government was criticized for not making good use of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) where members of the executive and legislative meet to align agendas.
(READ: Assessing Aquino: Legislative agenda, performance)
“This (meeting with Duterte) is informal because hindi pa nagsta-start and session. It will be formalized after July 25, during the first week of the session,” Angara said.