DAVAO CITY: Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has punched back at Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, challenging her to file a case against him over his supposed ties to a “death squad” allegedly responsible for the summary executions of around 1,000 suspected criminals in the city, many of them minors.
“I want her to personally file a case against me,” an incensed Duterte told journalists as he called de Lima “the Aquino administration’s barking dog.”
The renewed exchange between Duterte and de Lima was sparked by a controversial statement made by the mayor during his TV program on Sunday.
The statement was a reaction to a call of international group Human Rights Watch (HRW) for the government to investigate Duterte’s alleged involvement in operations of the shadowy group Davao Death Squad.
A number of news organizations concluded that Duterte has admitted involvement in the extra-judicial killings.
In the controversial statement, Duterte said, “They’re saying I am the death squad . . . Yes, that’s true. You know why? Because I want them to come here. There is no need for you to go to the Ombudsman. There are no requirements that you go to the human rights. File directly in court and I’ll place you under oath. Just execute an affidavit and then, I will call you when it’s time for me to cross-examine you.”
On Tuesday night, he explained that the statement was made out of exasperation.
“They’ve been repeating all these allegations. That [statement]was [made]out of exasperation,” Duterte said, adding that he intentionally made it to invite HRW, de Lima and the Commission on Human Rights to file charges against him.
He, however, said he never ordered anyone to kill a suspected criminal.
“I have never talked to anybody about crime. I am not that stupid. You underrate me. I do not talk about killing people,” according to Duterte.
He said de Lima appears to have always been specially interested in him.
When she was still with the CHR as chairman, Duterte noted, de Lima probed allegations that he funded the summary executions in Davao City.
“She has accused me before, when she was still with CHR. And now this,” he said. “File a case now, be the complainant, and I will place you on the witness stand. I will also answer everything, but I want you there. I will also ask you about your professional and personal dealings.”
Duterte believes that de Lima’s attacks are politically motivated.
“It’s because of her political ambition,” he said. “Well, run and the Filipino people will get to know you more as the barking dog of the Aquino administration,” the Davao mayor said.
De Lima is perceived to be targeting a Senate seat in the 2016 elections.