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VERA FILES FACT CHECK YEARENDER: The Duterte chamber: Allies echo the president’s ‘kill’ mantra

The effect of President Rodrigo Duterte’s strong personality has apparently rubbed off on people he works closely with and those who admire him. Duterte’s allies mimic him, especially when talking about his government’s banner program of war on drugs and anti-corruption.

Senators Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, and Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, and Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin are among those VERA Files Fact Check has identified to be echoing Duterte’s tough lines in the past year.

In recent years, other officials also referred to Duterte’s Operation Plan Tokhang in their pronouncements. Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Greco Belgica said in 2018 corrupt officials must be subject to “tokhang.” Jose Arturo “Jojo” Garcia, then Assistant General Manager of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), was reported in 2017 as saying he wants journalists who write bad stories about their agency to be included in “tokhang.”

Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa

Senator Dela Rosa oversaw the first two years of the deadly war on drugs of Duterte as the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief. He now brings the campaign against illegal drugs to the Senate.

“Sabi ko let’s try, i-reimpose natin itong death penalty. Tingnan natin. Barilin natin sa Luneta itong isa, dalawa, tatlo, apat na mga drug lord. Tingnan natin kung maghahakot pa sila ng drugs dito sa Pilipinas. (I said let’s try to reimpose death penalty. Let’s see. Shoot one, two, three, or four drug lords in Luneta. Let’s see if they can still get drugs here in the Philippines.)”

Source: CNN Philippines, #TheFilipinoVotes SENATORIAL FORUM, Dec. 2, 2018, watch from 40:51 to 41:00

Dela Rosa called for the reimposition of the death penalty for persons involved in the illegal drug trade, as well as for corrupt public officials. In July, he filed Senate Bill No. 226 to “hamper” the growth of foreign drug syndicates and to address illegal drug trafficking “in the region.”

After leading Duterte’s war on drugs, Dela Rosa was appointed chief of the Bureau of Corrections in 2018. On his first day, he sent a warning to drug lords in the national penitentiary, saying “I’m the boss.” He told prison guards not to be afraid of moneyed drug lords because the latter can also get killed while in jail.

Dela Rosa made a similar pronouncement in August 2016–two months after assuming the leadership of PNP chief–when he told drug surrenderees to exact revenge on the drug lords. He said they can kill, and burn the houses of drug lords. He later apologized for the statement, saying he made it out of frustration.

Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin

As the country’s head diplomat, Locsin discards diplomatese in defending the Duterte administration’s policies, including the war on drugs.

“Interesting. Maybe we’re not killing enough of the right guys to kill. What do you think? I think rogue cops should get the same treatment they dish out. What do you think? It is a population control measure, at least.”

Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin official Twitter account, Interesting…, Oct. 30, 2019

In a Dec. 12 tweet, Locsin said drug dealing is not a “psycho-socio-economic problem” but a “bad people problem” that can be solved only by “subtraction.” He said the “baselines,” the scale of the country’s drug problem, and the count of persons “rightly,” “wrongly,” and those who should be shot for resisting arrest needs to be known.

Even before he was appointed to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Locsin made a controversial tweet in 2016, suggesting a Nazi-style “final solution” to the “drug menace.” He later said it was a “private joke.” Locsin’s post gained traction only after Duterte, in a press briefing, likened himself to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, who led the genocide of Jews in Germany in the 1940s. Locsin later apologized to “real friends” and social media followers.

Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao

Pacquiao, the boxer turned politician, wants death by firing squad for drug smugglers. He believes the death penalty for drug smuggling is not anti-poor as it targets drug lords who are “not poor.” He said:

Kung ako, i-firing squad talaga kasi ang (drug smugglers) tigas talaga ng ulo. Ewan ko kung Pilipino ang gumagawa o foreigners….Gusto ko masampolan ang foreigners na gumagawa, nagpapasok (droga) dito sa ating bansa. So para sa akin walang batas-batas.”

(For me, put the (drug smugglers) in a firing squad because they are hard-headed. I do not know if the offenders are Filipinos or foreigners…I want to set an example for foreign offenders who bring (drugs) in the country. For me, there is no law.)”

Source:, Pacquiao wants those behind smuggled drugs executed by firing squad, Aug. 18, 2018, watch from 00:26 to 00:42

In an interview in July, Pacquiao was asked what execution method should be used for crimes such as drugs and plunder.

Basta death…death penalty. Kung droga siguro firing squad para makita ng tao na huwag tularan…(for plunder), depende na rin puwede ring i-firing squad, puwede ring lethal injection.” (Death…death penalty. For drugs, it may be firing squad so that the people will see and not emulate it….(for plunder), it depends. Firing squad or lethal injection might work.)”

Source: GMA News, Senator Pacquiao ukol sa death penalty, July 23, 2019, watch from 1:11 to 1:41

Pacquiao, who describes himself as “pro-life,” pushed for death penalty for heinous crimes, such as drug trafficking, in his first privilege speech in 2016.

Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go

Go, who continues to act as an “aide” to the President despite being a member of the Senate, has adopted Malacañang’s fight against illegal drugs and criminality in his legislative agenda. He also imitates Duterte’s crass style of talking.

He belittled Vice President Leni Robredo’s capability to lead the war on drugs when she was appointed by the President as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs (ICAD) in November. He said:

Yung nagsasabi na isa sa mga assistant mo na trap ito, it’s not a trap. Kapain mo muna ang sarili mo. Kung walang bayag ang mga assistant mo, ibulong mo na lang sa amin. Kami ang papatay sa drug lord. (That one of your assistants who say this is a trap, it’s not a trap. If your assistant does not have t***s, whisper it to me. We will kill the drug lord.)”

Source: Senate of the Philippines, Bong Go welcomes Robredo’s acceptance of drug czar post, Nov. 6, 2019

On Nov. 25, when Robredo was reported to be fired in ICAD by Duterte, Go said:

Itong kampanya laban sa droga kailangan kamay na bakal, hindi pwedeng puro talk lang tayo dito, puro istorya. Kailangan takutin mo ang mga ‘yan, patayin mo, kundi hindi sila matatakot. (This campaign against drugs needs an iron fist, not just talk or stories. You need to scare them, kill them or else they will not fear you.)”

Source: CNN Philippines, Go calls out Robredo for not killing drug lords as anti-drug czar, Nov. 25, 2019

Meanwhile, Go questioned the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) during a Senate budget hearing in November for it “seemingly values more the rights and lives of criminals” over the victims. The CHR is a constitutional commission mandated to protect the rights of Filipinos from state and non-state actors. Duterte had blasted the CHR in the past for criticizing his drug war, even “joking” the office is “better abolished.” (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte ‘jokes’ about abolishing CHR, meddling with Ombudsman probes) .



United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, High Commissioner Bachelet calls on States to take strong action against inequalities, Mar. 6, 2019.

PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica official Facebook page, Death Penalty to all corrupt officials! Ang corrupt dapat tinotokhang!,, April 19, 2018

Erwin Tulfo official YouTube channel, “DAPAT TALAGA ANG KURAP PINAPATAY” – COMM GRECO BELGICA, Nov. 13, 2018

MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia

Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go

Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa

Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin

Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao


(Guided by the code of principles of
the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks
the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials
and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence.
Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)