MANILA - Detained Sen. Leila de Lima on Tuesday said President Rodrigo Duterte has "no credibility" in calling out police officers tagged in brutal killings.
The "culture of death" among uniformed personnel is due to Duterte's frequent pronouncements that police officers are licensed to kill any suspect, De Lima, a staunch critic of the President, said in a statement.
"Now, this President expresses outrage over the latest brutal police killing. No credibility whatsoever. Pathetic even," she said.
"This is the very fruit of the poisonous culture of death he managed to implant in our society," added the former chair of the Commission on Human Rights.
Duterte earlier told the Philippine National Police (PNP) to incarcerate Police Senior Master Sgt. Jonel Nuezca would who brutally shot to death an unarmed woman and her son in Paniqui, Tarlac on Sundauy after a heated argument over the victims' use of improvised cannon.
"I don't think you can escape the rigors of justice because nakuha sa TV. Pati ako napanganga. Walang kuwenta. That's unfair and brutal masyado. Kung ako ang nandiyan, ewan ko lang. Pero I do not like oppression," Duterte said Monday night.
(I don't think you can escape the rigors of justice because it was caught on camera. Even I was dumbfounded. It was senseless. That's unfair and too brutal. If I were there, I don't know. But I do not like oppression.)
"Ikulong ninyo 'yun. 'Wag ninyong bitawan 'yung yawa na 'yun," he added.
(Put him in jail. Don't release that evil.)
Since he rose to the presidency in 2016, Duterte had repeatedly said that he would support law enforcers who kill drug pushers and users.
"If you are into drugs and destroy our youth, the next generation after us, I would hate it and I will kill you. Simple as that," Duterte said to loud cheers while addressing thousands of Filipinos in Singapore amid a two-day state visit there in December 2016.
"Look, it can never be a crime to say that 'I will kill you if you destroy my country'," Duterte said, adding, "That is a very legitimate statement."
Early this month, Duterte told law enforcers and prosecutors to "never waver" in the fight against the narcotics trade despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
He repeated his accusation that rights defenders are "preoccupied" with the life of criminals, his advice for law enforcers to shoot suspects who fight back, and his promise to take responsibility for deaths in operations.
"Me, as mayor and now as President, I have to protect every man, woman, and child from the evils of drugs. Ayaw ninyong maniwala? Kayo. Basta sinabi ko, ang laro dito, patayan because nakita mo naman marami naman akong pulis na patay," he said.
(You don't believe me? That's up to you. Like I said, the game here is killing, because you see, I have many cops who have died.)
Last week, though, he said he never ordered law enforcers to kill drug pushers and other suspects.
His fresh comment came a day after the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s office said it found “reasonable basis” to believe crimes against humanity were allegedly perpetrated in carrying out the government’s violent war on drugs.
“Wala akong inutos na ganu’n. Remember in all of my utterances, ang galit ko niyan when I say, 'Do not destroy my country . . . because I will kill you', hindi ko sinabi, 'MPD (Manila Police District) will kill you, the military will'... I said, 'I will kill you',” he said.
(I never ordered that. Remember in all of my utterances, my anger when I said, 'Do not destroy my country... because I will kill you.' I didn’t say, 'MPD will kill you, the military will…' I said, 'I will kill you.')
Nearly 6,000 people have been killed during anti-drugs operations in the country from July 1, 2016 until Oct. 31, 2020, according to government data. Human rights groups are saying though that thousands more have died in alleged extrajudicial killings.
"As with many incidents of recent police violence, the killing by Nuezca of (Sonia) Gregorio and her son Frank was brazen and underscores the impunity that prevails in the Philippines," said Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch.
"It took place in the context of an enabling environment for police violence that President Duterte himself has encouraged. Countless times, Duterte has excused police misconduct and promised to let them off the hook," he added.
"Sunday’s killings in Tarlac province are an inevitable result of the Philippine government’s failure to hold erring law enforcers to account."
In his public address Monday night, Duterte said that although he supports policemen, he will not condone them if they do something wrong.
De Lima has been detained in the Philippine National Police's headquarters in Quezon City since 2017 after she was arrested for allegedly profitting from the illegal drug trade in the national penitentiary.
She denies the allegations, saying she was being politically persecuted for being a vocal critic of Duterte, including his war on drugs.