• Lawmakers: Duterte is no criminal

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    Lawmakers, who are also lawyers, do not see President Rodrigo Duterte as a criminal even if the President had admitted to killing at least three people when he was on a crime-busting job as mayor of Davao City in southern Mindanao.

    Party-list Rep. Harry Roque of Kabayan and Rep. Rodel Batocabe made the assertion in light of a statement made by UN High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein calling Duterte a killer and a criminal.

    The UN official also chided the Philippine government for failing to launch judicial proceedings against Duterte.

    Al-Hussein issued the statement after Duterte delivered a speech that went, “In Davao, I used to do it personally. Just to show to the guys [police officers]that if I can do it, why can’t you? I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble. I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill.”

    “While I appreciate the concern of Commissioner al-Hussein, I am not certain if such a statement is consistent with the generally accepted principles of law. It is well recognized that one of the most fundamental principles of criminal law is the presumption of innocence, which provides that one must be considered innocent unless proven guilty,” Roque said.

    “The violence plaguing our nation is deplorable and needs to be addressed immediately. However, it is one thing to promote the rule of law, and another to label leaders as criminals. The judgment that the Philippine government receives from the international community has not been fair or productive,” he added.

    More than 5,000 drug suspects have been killed either by the police or vigilante groups since Duterte assumed the presidency last June 30.

    Batocabe argued that the UN should build its case against Duterte first before condemning the Philippine President as a murderer.

    “By all means, let them [UN] probe the President so long as they will comply with due process and rules of evidence. As it is, it is just a publicity ploy by the UN,” he said.

    “If they are really serious in probing [the President], they should be ready with sufficient and convincing evidence instead of relying on supposed admission by the President. If they pursue the probe based on that [admission], the UN might end up embarrassed,” Batocabe added.

    Roque said it is better to be vigilant rather than over-eager.

    “Does the UN still expect to be welcomed to investigate the facts on the ground when the High Commissioner has made statements that appear to prejudge the scenario? We are currently facing a deadlock that can only be resolved through greater prudence and diligence,” he added.

    LLANESCA T. PANTI

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