Malacañang, bishops and human rights activists were outraged by the statement of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte that he would “gladly” kill Davidson Bangayan if he saw him smuggling rice in his province.
“If this guy would go to Davao and starts to unload (smuggled rice)… I will gladly kill him,” Duterte, nicknamed “The Punisher,” told the Senate on Monday.
The Palace reminded the mayor to follow the rule of law while the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said people sin “in thought, in words and in deeds.”
“Killing a person is against the law. The President has been firm in the belief that no one is above the law. We must not resort to extralegal methods,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said a day after the Davao mayor tagged Bangayan, who is also believed to be David Tan, as the center of rice smuggling in the country.
Human rights activists also warned that Duterte’s threat fuelled the country’s infamous culture of impunity.
Rights activists said the mayor’s comments reinforced a culture of injustice.
“His statement, made in the halls of an institution that makes laws, encourages this culture of impunity,” Commission on Human Rights Chairman Loretta Ann Rosales said.
Rosales said her office will attempt to instigate a criminal charge of “issuing grave threats” against Duterte, which is punishable by up to six months in jail.
But a prosecutor would have to agree to file the charge, and then the case would likely take many years to complete in the overwhelmed court system.
Duterte, 69, is loved by many of his constituents in Davao City, who say that his relentless anti-crime crusade has cleaned the city of major criminal gangs.
But groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have reported over the years that hundreds of petty criminals, including children, have been summarily executed by the so-called “Davao Death Squads” linked to local officials.
Duterte has denied being involved in them, but Human Rights Watch said in a 2009 report that he had openly supported them.
Carlos Conde, the Philippine researcher for the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Tuesday that Duterte’s latest comments showed him to be an “incorrigible human rights violator”.
“He cannot be allowed to get away with these threats. Given his history in Davao, it would be foolish to dismiss all this as an empty threat.”
It was not the first time that Malacañang reminded Duterte not to take the law into his own hands.
In July last year, Duterte announced a shoot-to-kill order against criminals following a shootout with suspected kidnappers.
Malacañang told the mayor that his shoot-to-kill order was illegal.
The CBCP was also bothered by the mayor’s outburst at the Senate.
CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said killing “is a violation to the commandments of the Lord.”
He added that people commit sins “by thoughts, words and deeds.”
Villegas urged the government to take action not only on rice smuggling, but to see to it that the rights of people accused of doing something illegal are not violated.
“We all have the rights and so we should not suspend the rights of these accused persons for any reason,” he said.