President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night warned policemen involved in the illegal drug trade that he could be “more evil” than they are, and dispatched a controversial police officer to Bacolod City so he can “kill everybody.”
Speaking before a business conference Thursday night, Duterte said criminals and cops who sell illegal drugs do not have a “monopoly of evil in this country.”
“It’s a very stupid paradigm because I can be evil like you, and more than, if I want to be,” he said. “I still have two years; I can create hell for everybody.”
Duterte on Tuesday night dressed down Philippine National Police officials in a command conference over allegations that some of them were reselling illegal drugs that were seized during raids, even though he had doubled policemen’s salaries.
The scandal over ninja cops led to the resignation of PNP chief Oscar Albayalde when testimony before a Senate hearing said he tried to stop the dismissal of 13 of his subordinates who kept 160 kilos of shabu for themselves after a 2013 drug bust in Mexico, Pampanga.
Duterte also said he had asked Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido, the police officer who gained notoriety for leading deadly operations against drug-linked politicians, to go to Bacolod City in Negros Occidental so he can “kill everybody.”
Duterte said he assigned Espenido to Bacolod because of the proliferation of illegal drugs in the city.
“Bacolod is badly hit now. I placed Espenido there. I said, ‘Go there, you are free to kill everybody. Start killing there. The two of us can go to jail,’” Duterte said.
Early this year, Duterte sacked Bacolod’s police chief and four other police officers over their alleged drug links.
Espenido currently serves as deputy city director for operations of the Bacolod City Police Office.
He was the chief of police of Albuera, Leyte and Ozamiz City where the two mayors, Rolando Espinosa Sr. and Reynaldo Parojinog, were killed in police operations in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International slammed Duterte for his remarks, saying that the government must focus on probing police abuse instead of inciting violence.
“This encouragement of bloodshed must end once and for all, and efforts toward this must begin at the highest levels of government, notably the President himself,” AI Philippines Section Director Butch Olano said in a statement Friday.
“We reiterate that an important first step to ending this cycle of violence and impunity is to direct the police to stop the killings and bring to justice those found to be involved in previous abusive operations,” he added.
Olano also said that Espenido should not have been promoted and appointed to a higher position given his involvement in bloody operations in the past.
“It appears that under this administration, not only illegal drugs but also errant cops are being recycled, and, more worryingly, rewarded,” Olano said.
In 2017, he was recognized by President Duterte for his contributions to the government’s anti-drug campaign.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, however, said Espenido should follow the rule of law.
“You know the President, he’s fond of exaggerating to emphasize a point. But you cannot do that literally, you cannot kill everyone you want dead,” Año said in Filipino in an interview on radio dzMM. You can only use reasonable force if they resist and fight, and you are in danger.”
AI, along with other human rights organizations, has been criticizing the Duterte administration’s anti-narcotics crackdown, which has claimed thousands of lives in both police operations and vigilante-style killings.
Police figures showed that about 6,000 have been killed in the drug war since Duterte took office in 2016, but human rights groups peg the fatalities at 20,000.
Meanwhile, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency agents and policemen seized 88.49 kilos of shabu worth about P600 million and arrested six suspects in Gandara, Samar on Thursday.
“I commend all the personnel involved in this successful operation. I made it sure that during my watch, this kind of illegal operations will not succeed. That’s why we put more efforts and doubled our work in the performance of our duties,” said Brig. Gen. Dionardo Carlos, police regional director, after the suspects were presented to the local media.
The suspects, in two vehicles, were intercepted along Maharlika highway at Barangay Buñagan, Gandara town at around 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
The illegal drugs were from Manila bound for Cebu.