Amid calls to investigate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on his alleged human rights violations, former Justice secretary Leila de Lima on Tuesday revealed that he is actually already under investigation.
De Lima said she had directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the reported summary executions of individuals suspected of crimes and drug dealings in Davao City.
The killings were reportedly perpetrated by the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS), a shadowy group of vigilantes allegedly formed with Duterte’s support, along with police and other local officials in the mid-1990s.
The investigation, the former Justice chief disclosed, was based on a statement of a self-confessed member of DDS who is now under the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP). The NBI is still looking for corroborative supporting evidence.
“The guy did reveal certain activities of DDS. And would you believe that what they kill are suspects of only petty crimes, and some of them are even minors?” she told The Manila Times.
While de Lima cannot give details on how many killings have been attributed to Duterte, the mayor admitted in a radio interview that he had killed three kidnappers.
“So we really have to verify the veracity of his claims. But why he should make such admission to media if it is not true?” she pointed out.
Before the NBI’s investigation, de Lima had related that she ordered a probe of Duterte when she was still the chairman of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in 2008.
The CHR came up with a resolution recommending the prosecution of some police officers who are believed to be involved in those summary executions, but Duterte was exempted for lack of evidence.
De Lima said the CHR had hard time getting witnesses purportedly over security concerns.
Duterte ‘is not the right solution’
According to the former Justice secretary, she understands the Filipinos’ frustration with the justice system and rule of law–a reason why many are patronizing Duterte’s system of killing criminals.
“But what he is offering is actually not the right solution. It can’t ever be the right solution. You cannot right a wrong by committing another wrong,” she said.
De Lima added that Duterte’s claims should be verified because there might be a possibility that he is only making up stories about his human rights violations because the people seem to buy them.
Reports had it that the DDS killed more than 1,000 law violators in Davao.
Duterte warned he will kill up to 10,000 criminals if he is elected President.
Meanwhile, de Lima said she understands the sentiment of Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd, challenging Duterte to a slapping match.
Roxas was apparently offended by the tough-talking mayor’s claim that the presidential candidate’s Wharton degree is fake.
“Sino po ba ang nag-fire ng first shot? Nag-react lang naman si Secretary Mar sa sinabi ni Mayor Duterte, no? [Who really fired the first shot? Secretary Mar only reacted to Mayor Duterte, right?]” said de Lima, a part of the LP’s senatorial slate.
She noted that Duterte is known for his strongly-worded statements, relating how she was criticized by Duterte many times as head of CHR and the Justice department.
“Alam niyo naman naging paborito rin ako ni Mayor Duterte. Ang problema sa kanya talaga ’yung foul mouth. Sana bawasan niya ’yun. Sana meron din siyang respeto [I was once a favorite of Mayor Duterte. He really has a foul mouth. I hope he would minimize that and give some respect],” de Lima said.
“Of course, that’s his right, freedom of expression, criticism, pero sana constructive criticisms hindi ’yung offensive na hindi niya na iniisisp kung ano sinasabi niya [Of course, he has his rights to freedom of expression and criticism but I hope he would give constructive criticisms, not offensive ones. He’s not watching his words],” she added.