MANILA - Authorities should "follow the rule of law," Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Friday after President Rodrigo Duterte's supposed order for Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido to kill drug suspects in Bacolod, Negros Occidental.
Espenido assumed the post of deputy city director for operations of the Bacolod police earlier this week. Duterte said Thursday the city is "badly hit" by the drug problem and told Espenido he was "free to kill everybody" and to "start killing there."
"Alam mo naman ang Pangulo, mahilig siyang mag-exaggerate para lang to emphasize a point. Pero literally hindi naman iyan ganyan, kasi hindi naman puwedeng patayin mo lahat ng tao d'yan na gusto mong patayin," Año told radio DZMM.
"Gamitan mo lang iyan ng reasonable force, 'pag talagang mag-resist at lumaban at you are in danger... We have to follow the rule of law," he added.
(You know the President, he's fond of exaggerating to emphasize a point. But you cannot do that literally, you cannot kill everyone you want dead. You can only use reasonable force if they resist and fight, and you are in danger.)
Espenido gained prominence for leading the anti-narcotics operation that resulted in the death of Ozamiz, Leyte, city mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and his wife in July 2017.
He was also the police chief of Albuera town, Leyte, when former mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. was killed in his jail cell after supposedly engaging policemen who served a search warrant in a firefight.
Malacañang earlier hailed Espenido for his ability to bring down drug syndicates.
"Ang reputasyon ni Espenido 'pag nandoon sa isang lugar ay bumabagsak ang sindikato ng droga. Ibig sabihin talagang masigasig siya," Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said earlier this month.
(Espenido's reputation is that drug syndicates are destroyed wherever he is assigned. It only means he is relentless.)
Some drug lords in Bacolod and the nearby provinces of Cebu and Iloilo have become politicians or have established contacts with the police, said Año.