THE DRUG menace can be traced back to mainland China, but there’s a “bigger issue” and it’s not yet time to complain to Beijing, President Rodrigo Duterte has said.
Speaking before his law schoolmates on Sunday night, Duterte aired his grievances over the Chinese angle in the illegal trade, more than a week after revealing the names of three alleged drug lords – two of them in prison – who have ties to China.
Duterte did not talk about the Philippines’ recent legal victory over China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute, but appeared to be treading a careful line toward Beijing, which has refused to heed the July 12 ruling of an international arbitration tribunal.
“They were directing the traffic [from inside the prison]. Meron akong alam pero ‘wag muna … Nasa presuhan na sila [I know something, but not now … They’re in prison already]. They’re cooking shabu, on board ships, [with]Chinese registry,” Duterte said during a reunion of the San Beda College of Law batches 1971 and 1972,hosted by Malacañang.
“Because let’s just say, [there’s a] bigger issue about… magpakita akong restraint muna ngayon [I will show restraint for now]. [But] when I come face to face with them (Chinese officials) … Sabihin ko talaga ang sama ng loob ko lahat sa kanila [I will air all my grievances to them],” Duterte added.
Among those he had identified as drug lords was Cebuano-Chinese businessman Peter Lim. The other two were Peter Co and Herbert Colangco, who are in the national penitentiary for drug offenses.
On July 7, diagrams containing their names were distributed by the Palace to the media, with lines connecting them to a figure appearing to be the outline of the map of mainland China, filled with the symbols of the Chinese flag.
Administration officials have said there are other Chinese “persons of interest” in a “drug matrix,” which has yet to be released to the public.
Unclaimed bodies of those killed in police anti-drug operations are mostly Chinese, the President pointed out.
He clarified, however, that he does not believe Beijing had sent drug lords to the Philippines.
Duterte said he could not be accused of an anti-Chinese bias, as he had a Chinese grandfather whose last name was Lam.
The President however assured his audience that “there will always be a time for reckoning.”
Pardon for police, military eyed
Duterte also promised to pardon police and military men who will be indicted for obeying his order to fight illegal drug syndicates.
He argued that “the right or the power of the president to pardon” is guaranteed by the Constitution.
“[A] President can grant pardon, conditional or absolute, or grant amnesty with the concurrence of Congress. Gagamitin ko ‘yan. Maniwala kayo [I will use that, believe me],” Duterte said.
The President directed the police and military men to invoke his name when slapped with criminal charges, provided that their actions were all related to their jobs.
“Mag-trabaho kayo. ‘Wag kayong mag-imbento [Do your job. Don’t invent]. Do not fabricate evidence. I will hear you. And if you’re telling the truth, sabihin mo ako. ‘Utos ni
Mayor Rody’ [And if you’re telling the truth, tell them it was me. ‘It was Mayor Rody’s order’],” he said.
Pre-signed Presidential pardons will be made available to police or military officers, for submission to judges during arraignment, he added.
“Absolute pardon, restored to full and civil rights,” the President added.
But he warned law enforcers that they would face the barrel of the gun if they lied.
In his speech, the President also joked that he would even pardon himself for his campaign to suppress illegal drugs, which has claimed more than 300 lives.
“So pag-alis ko ng Malacañang, dito mag-pirma ako [When I leave Malacañang, I will sign here]: ‘Pardon is hereby granted to Rodrigo Duterte, signed Rodrigo Duterte,’” he said.