Leni slams growing culture of vigilantism
A DAY after attending her first Cabinet meeting and getting an insider’s view of the Duterte administration’s war against illegal drugs and criminality, Vice President Leni Robredo blasted a “growing culture of vigilantism and violence,” noting more than 100 cases of drug-related deaths in less than a month.
In a statement on Tuesday, Robredo joined calls in the Senate and the House of Representatives for an investigation of what lawmakers said appeared to be extrajudicial executions in police operations implementing President Duterte’s directive to crack down hard on the illegal drug trade.
“While we are one with the fight against drugs, we are concerned with the growing culture of vigilantism and violence. We hope that the war is not done at the expense of the innocent and defenseless,” she said.
She said she supported Mr. Duterte’s declaration “that the fight against drugs and crime must be done with an uncompromising exercise of the rule of law.”
“We encourage authorities concerned to look into these cases. If there is really culpability, then justice requires that appropriate cases be filed and that those proven to be accountable be punished,” said Robredo, a former counsel at the Public Attorney’s Office in her Naga City hometown.
“Since the President is a lawyer and former prosecutor, we trust that he will do what is appropriate,” she said.
Malacañang has not released details of Monday’s Cabinet meeting, but presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Robredo was briefed on the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.
“It was a very warm situation. She was warmly welcomed and she seemed to appreciate the fact that she was part of the Cabinet now,” Abella said in a press briefing. “She was made privy to the process and the thinking behind the war on drugs.”
Asked if Robredo had any concern about it during the meeting, Abella replied: “If she had, she didn’t express any.”
Palace officials have dismissed calls for the congressional inquiries as baseless and premature.
Mr. Duterte presided over the meeting. He had a change of heart and decided last week to designate Robredo head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council—a task bestowed on her two vice presidential predecessors, Jejomar Binay and Noli de Castro.
The President had initially expressed reluctance in giving Robredo a job in the Cabinet, fearing it would not sit well with Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who has filed a case in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, protesting massive fraud in the May 9 elections by the Liberal Party under whose banner Robredo ran.
Robredo won a slim 260,000-vote margin over the namesake son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The Supreme Court on Tuesday announced it would issue a ruling “in due course” on whether it would consider the Marcos petition.
Unlikely drug lords
Mr. Duterte was elected on a platform that included a promise that he would eliminate the drug menace in three to six months.
Alleged extrajudicial killings of supposed drug lords and pushers in stepped-up police operations started even before the President’s inaugural. The victims did not appear to be drug lords in the mold of Latin narcotics kingpins, but slum dwellers gunned down mainly in the capital’s squatter colonies.
The Inquirer has placed the body count at 136 since June 30, when Mr. Duterte took his oath as the 16th President, and at 183 since May 10, the day after he was elected.
Sen. Leila de Lima has been vocal in pressing for an investigation of the killings that showed “telltale signs of summary executions.”
Palace officials directed the Philippine National Police to proceed with the anticrime campaign and threatened to investigate De Lima as well, saying that the drug menace flourished during her watch as justice secretary in the Aquino administration to a point that convicted drug lords were calling the shots from the New Bilibid Prison and were manufacturing narcotics there.
Police told: Just do it
Abella defended Solicitor General Jose Calida from senators’ criticism that his remarks on Monday questioning the basis for a congressional probe—mainly by Aquino allies—on the killings of drug suspects reeked of arrogance.
He said Calida was just doing his duty as the lawyer for the government to see to it that all things were processed properly for the police.
“Basically, he is simply making sure that everything goes with due process. Basically, just due process,” he said.
Asked if Mr. Duterte would ask the police not to attend the congressional inquiries on the issue, Abella said what the President was saying was that the police should pursue their task fully. He said the President was “just encouraging them to just pursue their task as fully as they can.”
The presidential spokesperson said that if there was any “irregular situation” found in the police operations, proper cases should be filed.
No moral outcry
Fr. Amado Picardal of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said he was worried about the absence of a public outcry against the killings.
“There is madness happening in our country,” said Picardal, executive secretary of the CBCP’s episcopal committee on basic ecclesiastical communities. “Not just the killings but the citizens’ reactions, mostly Catholics and Christians, who are suspending their sense of what is right and wrong,” he said over Church-run Radio Veritas.
Filipinos may just keep quiet or approve of the killings until a member of their family becomes a victim, Picardal said.
“That is my worry, that this will not stop because there is no outcry, there is no moral outcry from the citizens,” he said.
Other bishops in interviews with the radio joined the outcry.
Bishop Broderick Pabillo denounced “a great injustice.” He added, “No one has the prerogative to take away another’s life.”