Duterte’s ‘apology’ vindicates slain mayor of drug ties, say kin
LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines — A 2-kilometer-long procession led by a hearse carrying the remains of Mayor Caesar Perez gave a somber feel to cries for justice in this small community on Tuesday. Residents wearing face masks stepped out of their homes as the convoy of honking cars and motorcycles snaked slowly through narrow roads.
On one of the lead cars, Perez’s youngest son, Aldous, arched his body out through a window and raised his fist. “Salamat! (Thank you!)” he shouted to onlookers, many of them wearing white shirts and black armbands or held up printouts that read: “Justice for Mayor Caesar Perez.” As police investigation into the killing appeared to be moving too slowly, municipal administrator Robert Laviña said the mayor was already vindicated somehow of accusations that he was involved in the illegal drug trade.
Perez, 66, was felled by an assassin’s bullet at the municipal government compound on the night of Dec. 3—the latest local official killed among those tagged in the national government’s list of suspected narcopoliticians.
In a public address on Monday night, President Duterte distanced himself from his list of public officials linked to the drug trade as he offered sympathies to Perez’s family. He said the names on the list did not come from him but from the intelligence sources of law enforcers.
“That list is not mine. It’s a collation, all the intelligence reports from drug enforcement and the intelligence of the military, police. It’s a combination,” Mr. Duterte said.
Aldous, 34, believed his father’s death could be linked to his inclusion in the list. The family has maintained that he was not involved in the drug trade and noted that he had taken steps to clear his name.
“First of all, I’m sorry that your father died the way it happened,” Mr. Duterte said, acknowledging the family’s call for help in seeking justice. The President said his office had nothing to do with the killings of those on the list. He said he did not know Perez and he did not remember reading his name. It was possible, Mr. Duterte said, that the mayor was not linked to the drug trade.
“I’m sorry if your father was there. But really, most of those were into drugs. Your father might be an exception. If you believe firmly that he was not guilty or liable of anything, well, it’s good. But the problem is his name was included in the list,” he said. “And mind you, all of those who died, well, you will just have to look for the killers. That is not from my office,” Mr. Duterte said.
Laviña said Perez’s family was hoping that the mayor’s name be stricken off the list, even after his death.
“Personally, I’ve never heard the President apologize [to anyone named on the drug watch list]. And [Mr. Duterte] even mentioned that [Perez] might have been an exception. I was talking to the family and they said the President’s statement somehow eased [their grief],” Laviña said.
In an interview at the municipal hall, Aldous said the family took the President’s statement as something that “cleared” his father’s name.
“We are glad [my father’s] name was cleared but we would still want his name removed from the [narcolist]. Our trust in the President remains and we are still asking his help to solve this [killing],” he said. Police Brig. Gen. Felipe Natividad, police director of Calabarzon, on Tuesday gave a case briefing at Camp Crame in Quezon City but his spokesperson, Police Lt. Col. Chitadel Gaoiran, said some details, like information on the getaway vehicle and the firearm used, were still too “premature” to disclose.
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