President Rodrigo Duterte did not break any law when he publicly named five police officials allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Duterte did the generals a favor by giving them the chance to air their side before their respective cases reach the courts.
“No law or due process has been violated. When you say due process, you give the respondent the chance to explain his side whatever accusation anyone has made. The President has been asking the people he has named to come out in the open and explain their side or stop whatever they’re doing illegally…But nobody came out,” he said.
“They were named so they have all the opportunity in the world to study their case, consult a lawyer, retain a lawyer para bago dumating pormal na demanda naka ready na sila. Dapat nga magpasalamat sila, kung ako abogado magpapasalamat pa ako (so that before they are formally charged, they are ready. They should be thankful,)” he added.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel 3rd agreed with Panelo.
“It was the duty of the President to have these PNP generals investigated. He could have given the order in writing but then that would still be a public document and still can be reported by media,” the incoming Senate President said.
Panelo and Pimentel issued their statements in reaction to the claim of Kabayan Party-list Rep. Harry Roque that Duterte violated the generals’ right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“He should have gone through the process of [filing]a complaint before the Napolcom [National Police Commission] and fiscals’ office,” Roque said.
Duterte on Tuesday named retired generals Marcelo Garbo Jr. and Vicente Loot and Chief Superintendent Bernardo Diaz, Director Joel Pagdilao and Chief Superintendent Edgardo Tinio as the police officials involved in the illegal drug trade.
The five police generals have all denied the allegations.
Loot, who arrived in Manila on Thursday, said he will seek an audience with Duterte to clear his name.
“I wish the president could give me a chance to air my side, to find out all the allegations and to clear my name,” the mayor of Daanbantayan, Cebu said.
But Panelo said it was very unlikely that Duterte was fed the wrong information as some of the generals claimed.
“Duterte as President of the Republic has access to all information and intelligence reports. If you’re the President you have access, pinag-aralan na, na-validate na yan (those reports have been studied and validated),” he said.
Panelo also claimed Duterte had been gathering evidence since last year.
“We should always give the presumption, the benefit of the doubt to whoever is speaking especially when the law says there should be a presumption of regularity in all official undertakings. Presidente natin yan dapat may tiwala tayo sa kanya (He is our president, we should trust him),” he said.
Panelo also denied that Duterte subjected the police generals to “trial by publicity.”
“We are witness to the fact that immediately after naming them, they went to the media and the media accepted their position, meaning to say inilathala nila. There is no trial by publicity,” he said.
Pimentel said the President also did the right thing.
“The president was doing his sworn duty to execute the laws and be the head of the executive branch,” he said.
But Senator Leila De Lima said the name and shame campaign of the President placed the National Police Commission in a dilemma.
“On one hand it demonstrates the seriousness and determination of the President to really stamp out criminality and corruption, especially corruption within the PNP, between and among the PNP officials. So that’s the plus,” she said.
On the other hand, she said the Napolcom may find itself in a predicament while investigating the five police generals.
“Since the President has publicly named them and it seems that the president is certain, what will happen if the Napolcom comes out with different findings?” De Lima said. She noted that the generals can not file charges against the president in case the allegations against them turned out to be false.