Gordon’s friendly warning as Duterte continues to promote culture of killing

President Rodrigo Duterte awards a medal on then Ozamiz City
police chief Jovie Espenido during the 116th anniversary of the police service
at Camp Crame, Aug. 9, 2017. Photo from the Philippine Star.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, in his attempt to explain President Duterte’s alarming order to newly promoted Police Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido to go to Bacolod City in Negros Oriental and “feel free to kill everybody” said it was an exaggeration to emphasize a point.

He also said the President might have just suggested a “shortcut.”

“Shortcut” is most disturbing and that is not assuaged by his assurance that the Philippine National Police still follow the law.

In a speech at the 45th Philippine Business conference and expo at the Manila Hotel Oct. 17, Duterte again talked about his favorite topic- illegal drugs- and repeated his quarrel with human rights groups, who condemn the extra judicial killings.

He cited as an example Bacolod City which, he said, “is badly hit now (by illegal drugs)”. That’s why he assigned Espenido as deputy director for operations at the Bacolod City.

He described Espenido as “‘Yung tinatakutan nila na pulis. (The police officer that they most fear).”

He said is order to Espenido is: “Go there and you are free to kill everybody.” T*** i**** ‘yan. “Go, start killing them.”

He added: “Ako nang — dalawa na tayong pa-preso. (I… two of us will go to jail.”

Espenido is identified with killings. He was the police chief of Albuera town in Leyte when Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., was killed in his jail in Baybay City, Leyte in November 2016.In 2017, he was transferred to Ozamiz City where then Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and 15 others were killed in the series of drug raids.

Three years and more than 20,000 killed in Duterte’s drug war, the problem has not been eliminated.Duterte reacts violently to criticisms of his brutal solution.

The Commission on Human Rights, in a statement by its spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia, expressed concern with Duterte’s order to Espenido.

“Such words inciting arbitrary act of violence by a State agent reinforce and tolerate impunity. This pronouncement should never be made to normalize violence in the country and to blatantly attack the right to life of individuals. We cannot emphasize further that law enforcement agents, especially the police, should never resort to any extralegal process in its drive against illegal drugs in the country. At all times, it must adhere to their standard operating procedures and respectful of human rights principles in fulfilling their sworn duty to serve and protect. “

Noting Año’s clarification of Duterte’s order to Espenido, de Guia said, “The Commission reminds the administration to be mindful of its statement and should never encourage the police to transgress the law as there are mechanisms in place to hold them accountable for their actions.”

Sen. Richard Gordon, a Duterte ally who at one time was at the receiving end of his insult, expressed concern about the order and made a gentle warning to the President: “Be careful because you might fall on your own sword.”

He added, “By saying out loud, I will be doing my duty as friend.”

Indeed, such advice can only come from a friend.