President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday declared that the Philippines has turned into a “narco country” as policemen in Manila shot dead 25 drug suspects in a series of raids overnight.
In a speech during his visit to the Ozamiz City police station, Duterte admitted that he made a mistake in his assessment of the illegal drug trade in the country.
“Now, magtanong kayo (if you ask): Are we or are we not a narcotic country? Yes we are. Kung hindi ako nag-presidente, hindi ko naman talaga alam (I wouldn’t have known this if had not become president),” Duterte said.
“I feel so bad about all of these things. Kasi nalaman ko, paano ko makontrol (because I realized I cannot end this problem) in six months, three to six months? Ang mga generals na pulis nandiyan, tapos ang mga Bureau of Customs, ‘yung ahensya na inaasahan ko ‘yung pulis, nasa droga (The police generals, the Bureau of Customs, the policemen are into drugs). So how can I succeed even if you give me the whole of my term?” he added.
On the campaign trail, Duterte promised to end the drug problem in three to six months. When the deadline lapsed, he asked for a six-month extension.
“Sabi ko, tama ‘yan silang mga kritiko. ‘Eh sabi mo, nung nag-Presidente ka, three to six months’… Alam ko na nagkamali ako. Nagkamali talaga ako (I said my critics are right. You said if you became president, three to six months, you will end the drug problem. I know I was really wrong),” the President said.
Duterte made the admission on the same day that policemen shot dead 25 drug suspects in 14 anti-drug operations overnight in Manila.
The killings followed the massive operations launched by policemen in Bulacan province where 32 drug suspects were also shot dead.
Duterte again offered a P2-million reward to anyone who can identify policemen involved in the killings allegedly ordered by the influential Parojinog clan in Ozamiz City.
“Kayong mga pulis nasa droga, ang bayad ko sa ulo ninyo two million (You policemen who involved in drugs, I am offering P2 million for your heads. No questions asked. Hindi ako magtatanong kung sinong pumatay sa iyo (I will not even ask who killed you). I want you there down dead,” he said.
Duterte said the Parojinog family, whom he accused of having ties with drug syndicates, used law enforcers to silence those who defied them and to perpetuate themselves in power.
“Look what happens if drug is allowed to flourish. There is narco-politics. May election ba dito na malinis? (Was there ever an election here that was clean?)” he said.
Duterte’s visit came weeks after Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., his wife and several relatives were killed in an anti-drug raid.
The mayor was in the list of politicians believed to have links with drug syndicates that was turned over to Duterte last year.
The President said he hopes to get rid of narco-politics before the end of his term.
“I came here just to assure you. Nakatikim na kayo ng narco-politics (You have seen how narco-politics works). It will stop for a while. I hope I can get rid of it before I can get out of office,” he said.
The President vowed to continue the war on drugs.
“I will continue this. That’s why I said to the police and the military: ‘Destroy the apparatus, the organization of drug syndicates,’” Duterte said.
The Manila Police District (MPD) on Thursday said 15 of those killed in dozens of operations conducted from Wednesday night until Thursday morning.
MPD director Chief Supt. Joel Napoleon Coronel said 15 drug pushers who resisted arrest were shot dead in buy-bust operations.
“Ten of 11 police stations of Manila contributed to these achievements in 24 hours. These results were products of our one-time-big-time raids. In fact, our policemen are now looking for two drug users who were the cause of the fire in San Miguel Street,” Coronel said, referring to the fire that razed dozens of houses on Wednesday in San Miguel, Manila.
Coronel said at least 18 drug suspects are killed daily in their intensified anti-drug operations.
“Out of 1.7 million residents of Manila, some 300,000 are into illegal drugs. So far, 24 barangays are now drug-free and we hope to add more and have at least 100 villages drug-free by the end of the year,” he said.
He denied allegations that many of the drug suspects were intentionally killed.
The killings in Manila happened two days after 32 suspects were shot dead in Bulacan.
Duterte had backed the killings and called on the police to kill more.
“Those 32 killed in the massive raid in Bulacan…maganda iyon (that’s great). We should kill another 32 everyday, [then]maybe we can reduce what ails this country,” the President said during the celebration of the 19th anniversary of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption in Malacañang.
The President, however, conceded that the time will come when he will be held accountable for the drug-related killings,
“I know I will have my own downfall. I will not be a President forever, I will be asked to answer for all these killings,” Duterte said. “Go ahead [and file a case]. I will ask them to put me in a cell beside de Lima,” he added, referring to Sen. Leila de Lima who is detained on drug-related charges.
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo expressed outrage over the killing of 57 drug suspects.
“We should express outrage over these killings. Filipinos are not killers. We should junk the culture of impunity. These unabated killings mean there are people who want to be the law, and that is not lawful and does not serve justice for all,” Robredo said.
JAIME R. PILAPIL WITH LLANESCA T. PANTI