Saturday ∗ 19 Aug 2017

This is on you, President Duterte

It was a little over a year ago, in July 2016, when President Duterte first talked about pardoning policemen in the name of the drug war. He had been turning defensive because of constant criticism about the human rights violations of his war on drugs and its contingent, growing body count.

In a speech in front of San Beda batches 1971 and 1972, Duterte spoke of how he is the President and therefore is not required to respect due process. And instead of addressing questions about human rights violations, he talked about how the police could point a finger at him for whatever crime they commit in the name of the drug war, and as long as they did not lie to him about what they’ve done, he would pardon them. 

Sabi ko lahat ng pulis, sabi ko: “Do not lie to me.” <…> Mag­trabaho kayo. ‘Wag kayong mag­imbento. Do not fabricate evidence. I will hear you. And if you’re telling the truth, sabihin mo ako. Utos ni Mayor Rody. Sabihin mo diyan sa judge, sabihin mo diyan sa piskal, sabihin mo sa Ombudsman, sabihin mo sa Human Rights. ‘Wag mong sabihin sa akin kasi alam ko na. Just come to me. Why? Meron akong nakita sa Constitution. Just my… itong panlaban ko: The right or the power of the president to pardon.

I will not hesitate to pardon 10, 15 military and policemen everyday.

Almost three weeks after, on August 5 2016, he repeats this rhetoric in a speech at the Central Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) — which could not have been a coincidence — first detailing how he would be exempt from being jailed for the killings (because by the time he steps down as President he would be 77 years old), and then talking about how he would allow the police and military who do wrong to get away with pretty much anything — including the murder of a hundred.

Ako prisuhin mo? Halika, fiscal. Basahin mo yung Revised Penal Code, o basahin mo. “That the President, the offender upon reaching the age of 70 shall be released.” Mandatory yan! Ibig sabihin, matanda ka na, hindi ka na puwede diyan sa Muntinlupa na yan, o yung—pauwiin ka na. (laughter)
At ang pulis, bakit ka matakot? Ang Army, bakit ka matakot? <…> Basta trabaho ninyo <…> pero itong trabaho, napatay mo ng isang daan, okay ‘yan. Trabaho eh. So kung ipitin kayo: Pardon. O di kada — dito si Ombudsman: Pardon. “Sir, sabit kami dun sa …” Pardon. O di para pa akong diyos diyan, pagkatapos ko ng ‘The Pardoning President.’ (laughter)

Over a month after, on September 20, speaking to the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army in Compostela Valley, Duterte would again talk about pardoning police and military, this time skewing the discussion by asserting that police and military violations of the law and disrespect for human rights are in fact a matter of combatting crime. He also promised pardoned policemen a promotion.

For as long as there is the power to pardon sa Constitution, ‘yan ang weapon ko against crime. Mag-­massacre kayo ng isang daan, isang daan rin kayo, eh ‘di pardon lahat eh. Restored to full political and civil rights plus a promotion to boot. Basta gano’n mga—lalo na, high profile.

A week after, speaking to the Filipino community in Vietnam on September 28 2016, Duterte would again mention pardoning policemen who commit “multiple murder”:

Pagsabi, “Sir, sabit kami, multiple murder.” “No problem. Get your copy of pardon, it’s been signed.

We could list down the other instances in 2017 when President Duterte talked about absolving policemen, protecting them from all culpability and the Courts, but instead let’s talk about how the Palace has defended this President.

In March 2017, after Duterte yet again talked about pardoning police and military who are acting under his orders — this time given the case of the murdered Mayor who was killed by policemen while in detention — the Palace said:

The President has no intention of circumventing the law, but is just “taking full responsibility” for drug suspects killed during legitimate police operations. “Legal procedures will be observed without presidential intervention.”

Now the Palace would also have us believe that this is all just the President’s frustration, and his words are nothing but exaggeration and hyperbole. But it isn’t.

Not only are we looking at a whole year of Duterte rhetoric that is violent. We’re also looking at a whole year of Duterte being protective of police and military who might kill, murder, and rape women, absolving these officials before they even commit these crimes. 

That March 29 2017 speech is telling. Speaking during the People’s Day Celebration in Oriental Mindoro, the President said:

Iyan ang order ko. Pag ‘yan ang sinusunod ng pulis pati military, huwag kayong matakot ako, I and I alone will be liable for that. They are just obeying my order. So any policeman or military man charged for killing those bastards, they will have my protection. Do not… You can charge them with anything.

Mag­exhibition ako. <…> They go to court and I said no more trial, plead guilty—guilty. Dalhin mo doon sa judge, pardon, absolute. There’s in the Constitution my only weapon also against harassment against government men. Ano? The President shall have the power… Among the powers of the President ba­ba­blah­blah… The President shall have the power to pardon and convict either absolute or conditional or grant amnesty.

Here, Duterte actually already tells you and me, all of us, that no police or military will be held liable for whatever crime they commit under his war on drugs (and we presume now, his war in Marawi, and under Martial Law). For as long as they act under his orders, within his wars, they will be protected by the President. This much he said as recently as August 17 2017, in a speech at the Ozamiz Police Station, after the rubout of the Parojinog family and other civilians.

<translated> Why are there many police working now? Because they are protected by me. [applause]

If the police and the military get into trouble in connection with the performance of duty, they can expect, I will not allow any of you to be jailed. [applause]

This kind of rhetoric, these articulations, consistently heard from the President by the police already create a culture of impunity and violence, and allow armed authorities who are supposed to protect the people, to imagine that killing suspects is no big deal. After all, right or wrong, they will never be held liable for these deaths, they will be protected by the President.

This is why the current state of affairs, as it has been the past year, is all on President Duterte. Articulating the pardon of police and military, asserting that you will protect them, once, or twice, is already a dangerous thing. To have repeated it over and over and over again throughout the past year, that is the part where the President has blood on his hands.

Probably the only good thing about this Presidential rhetoric? Duterte himself admits that he is responsible for these killings.

“I and I alone will be liable for that. They are just obeying my order.”

Now someone tell me that this is enough to actually hold him liable now. Not tomorrow. Not later. But now. ***

NOTE: All of the President’s speeches are available on the PCOO website. 


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