MANILA – Malacañang on Thursday came to the defense of President Rodrigo Duterte following his tirades against Senator Leila de Lima.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Duterte was displeased that De Lima ''assumed'' that all the drug-related deaths are ''directly attributable'' to the president's war on drugs.
Monitoring being done by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group shows 653 killed in police operations, 335 killed by unidentified assailants, and 93 bodies found away from the crime scene, from May 10 to August 17. Eleven are being killed daily.
''[He] has taken umbrage with Sen. de Lima's approach, of not only taking the moral high ground with regard to drug-related deaths, but her assumptions that said deaths are directly attributable to PRRD's [President Rodrigo Roa Duterte's] War on Drugs,'' Abella said in a statement.
Abella said Duterte is ''appalled by Sen de Lima's history for jumping to conclusions about the President's culpability without sufficient evidence, lack of appreciation of the magnitude of the menace, and taking the opportunity to grandstand in spite of the gravity of the situation."
Police say those killed in police operations fought back, and that many of the killings by unidentified assailants were probably ordered by drug syndicates.
De Lima, on Thursday morning, fired back at the president who had accused her of having had an affair with her married driver. He also accused the driver of receiving drug money from syndicates in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.
De Lima said Duterte is abusing and misusing his executive power by issuing such a ''foul'' tirade.
De Lima has already stressed that the Senate probe that she will conduct next week aims to find facts and is not a witch hunt against the Duterte administration.
''Sana ay masubaybayan po ninyo ang mga gagawing pagdinig ng Senado ukol sa mga patayang nagaganap. Nais po nating malaman ang katotohanan sa likod ng mga ito. May mga indikasyon o teorya po na nagsasabing hindi lahat ng nangyayaring pagpatay ay talagang kaugnay, kundi kasabay lamang ng kampanya laban sa droga,'' De Lima said in her open letter to Duterte.
(I hope that you would be able to monitor the Senate hearing on the recent spate of killings. I would like to know the facts behind the killings. There are indications or theories that some of the killings were not directly related to the war on drugs.)
''May mga pagpatay na isinasabay o isinasakay lamang ng mga tiwaling kawani ng pamahalaan at mga kasabwat nila upang pagtakpan ang kanilang karumaldumal na partisipasyon sa kalakalan ng droga. Hindi nila isinusulong, kundi inililihis pa nga ang direksyon ng paglaban sa droga at sinasabotahe ang magagandang layunin ng kampanya."
(There are killings which are being carried out by unscrupulous officials and their cohorts simultaneously with drug operations so they can conceal their participation in the illegal drug trade. They are sowing confusion to the war on drugs and sabotaging the good intentions of this campaign.)
The Liberal Party has taken up the cudgels for De Lima, saying the senator deserved public support for raising the alarm over the hundreds of deaths linked to the war on illegal drugs.
Senator Risa Hontiveros also called out Duterte for his ''misogynistic'' remarks against De Lima.