VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Cayetano tells UN Duterte admin has ‘zero tolerance’ for police abuse

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, speaking before the United Nations (UN) in Geneva Monday, said the Duterte administration has “a policy of zero tolerance for abuse of law enforcers.”


Cayetano, who was appointed days later as foreign affairs secretary, told the UN during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR):

“At all times, the Duterte administration seeks to uphold the rule of law. In fact, the president, President Duterte has a zero policy… has a policy of zero tolerance for abuse of law enforcers. This statement and policy of President Duterte is rarely, if at all, shown in Western media.”

(Source: Philippines Review: 27th Session of Universal Periodic Review, Geneva, May 8, 2017, watch from 10:18 to 10:39)

The UPR is a process, done every five years by the UN Human Rights Council, which involves a review of the human rights records of member-states.

As proof, Cayetano showed a video clip of Duterte’s first state of the nation address (SONA) in July, where the president said:

“To our police officers and other officials, do your job and you will have the unwavering support of the Office of the President. I will be with you all the way. Abuse your authority, and there will be a hell to pay, for you will have become worse than criminality itself.”

(Source: Official Gazette, The 2016 State of the Nation Address, July 26, 2016)

In that speech, Duterte had ordered the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) to “hasten the conduct of investigation and adjudication of administrative cases against police officers involved in criminal activities and illegal activities.”

Days after his appearance at the UPR, in a press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for World Economic Forum (WEF) for Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Cayetano said he is “willing to resign, to be jailed, to be exiled” if his presentation in Geneva was wrong.

He said:

“I’m willing to resign, to be jailed, to be exiled if mali ‘yung prinesent ko (what I presented was wrong) or at the very least if I intentionally misled anyone. Lahat ng pinresent ko (everything I presented) is based on fact, based on actual numbers.”

(Source: Presidential Communications Operations Office, Cayetano thanks Duterte, bares plans for DFA, May 11, 2017)


“Zero tolerance” for erring police officers is not quite accurate.

What Duterte said in his SONA, and what Cayetano presented as proof of an ostensibly “zero tolerance” policy, is contradicted by Duterte himself, in another speech.

On Dec. 5, 2016, during a Christmas tree lighting event in Malacañang, Duterte admitted that he ordered the reinstatement of Supt. Marvin Marcos, head of Region 8 Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

Marcos has been implicated in the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. inside a provincial jail.

Espinosa was arrested for possession of illegal drugs and illegal possession of firearms.

In March, Marcos and several other policemen were indicted for the killing.

Duterte, refusing to disclose his reasons for ordering the reinstatement, said:

“But do not force me, to criticize me, to force me to believe, ‘yung mga (all the) theory at mga (and all) assumption even with the witnesses na pinatay ‘yung mayor sa loob ng presuhan (that the mayor was killed in jail). Rather as the head of government and the chief executive, the police is under me. So the PNP Chief is under my supervision and control. I do not have to explain to you, the whole Republic of the Philippines and the critics, why I made the order for him just to sit down and do not remove him.”

(Source: Speech during the Malacañang Christmas tree lighting event, Malacañang Palace Grounds, December 5, 2016, watch from 12:15 to 13:04)

In the same speech, Duterte said that as president, he has “absolute control and supervision” over the police.

“Whatever the reason be, that’s my discretion,” he said.

Duterte said:

“When there is absolute control and supervision, I can modify, amend, revoke any order in this executive department. Congress and Supreme Court, wala tayong pakialam (we do not care). But as president, I do not have to give you the rationale or the reason why I ordered your reinstatement right away.”

(Source: Speech during the Malacañang Christmas tree lighting event, Malacañang Palace Grounds, December 5, 2016, watch from 13:40 to 14:08)

More, the president said on tape that police officers should “just obey” his orders and he “will answer for it personally.”

He said:

“Do your duty, go out and find these criminals, arrest them if possible. But if they offer a violent resistance, and you think that your life is in danger, patayin mo (kill them). And that is my order until now. Now, sabi ng pulis, pag-serve nila ng warrant, lumaban at binaril nila (the police say, when they served the warrant, the suspect fought and got killed). Tama Right). And I believe you, because the police is under the executive branch of the government. Akin (Mine). So, sabi ko sa kanila (I told them): ‘Do not worry. Magtrabaho lang kayo (Just do your job). Just obey ‘yung order ko na (my order to) look for them and hunt for them. Sundin lang ninyo at ako ang lahat mananagot (Just follow my orders and I will answer for everything). I will answer for it personally.’”

(Source: Speech during the Malacañang Christmas tree lighting event, Malacañang Palace Grounds, December 5, 2016, watch from 14:51 to 15:55)

More recently, Duterte had almost exactly the same statement, but added that he would pardon police and even military officers if they are executing his orders.

On March 29, at a 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 (That’s my order. When the police and the military follow my orders, they do not need to worry). 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. Mag-exhibition ako, alam mo kung ano (I will have an exhibition, you know what), congressman? They go to court and I said, no more trial, plead guilty. Guilty. Sabihin, ‘dalhin mo doon sa (Say that to the) judge, pardon, absolute.’”

(Source: Speech during the People’s Day celebration, Socorro, Oriental Mindoro, March 29, 2017, watch from 28:45 to 29:40)