Duterte hits back, challenges VP to debate
MANILA, Philippines – As he surged to the top of the latest surveys, presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte is now in the crosshairs of his rivals, who called the Davao City mayor the nation’s executioner, a threat to democracy and a liar as they tried to persuade the people not to vote for him.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, who earlier tagged Duterte as the “pambansang berdugo” or national executioner, reminded voters that it is their moral obligation not to pick a president who advocates violence and killing people, including children, on mere suspicion.
Duterte’s closest rival, Sen. Grace Poe, also twitted the mayor, saying the country needs justice and not violence in order to attain peace and order.
The camp of Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II warned the electorate that a Duterte presidency would pave the way for the return of martial law.
Law experts called for government action and resolution of cases of extrajudicial killings as they criticized the kind of leadership that Duterte is propagating in his bid for the presidency.
“As a human rights lawyer and a Catholic, it is my moral responsibility to oppose the policy of summary executions being espoused by Duterte,” Binay said during a roundtable discussion with The STAR editors and reporters on Monday night.
The tough-talking Duterte is currently leading various surveys on presidential preference.
Binay, standard-bearer of the United Nationalist Alliance and former frontrunner, slid to third place followed by Roxas, who ranked fourth. Poe is in second place.
Roxas said Duterte represents the “biggest danger to the country” since the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“Duterte wants to be the judge, jury and executioner. If you don’t agree with him or follow him, you will be insulted, pelted with bad words or bullets,” Roxas told journalists during a briefing in Misamis Occidental yesterday.
He urged voters not to believe Duterte’s claims that he can solve crime within six months in office. He said one does not need to resort to extrajudicial killings to punish criminals.
The LP standard-bearer called Duterte a liar for claiming Davao is crime-free.
Duterte hits back
Speaking to a crowd of about 50,000 at the Food Terminal Inc. complex in Taguig City on Monday, Duterte turned the tables on Binay, calling him berdugo ng pera ng bayan or executioner of the country’s treasury.
While he admitted that criminals did get killed in Davao City for opting to shoot it out with police officers, Duterte said Binay’s act was worse.
Duterte’s runningmate, Sen. Alan Cayetano, said Binay and Roxas are threatened with the good showing of his partner in the recent surveys.
“We don’t need to defend the mayor against Binay and Roxas because they were the ones who feel threatened, not the democracy,” Cayetano said.
He said Duterte was good to Binay and Roxas when they were courting him for an endorsement, before the mayor decided to run for president.
Binay urged everyone who values life, democracy and Christian values to oppose Duterte’s idea of justice.
“I have advocated the right to life, while Duterte advocates killing people. Such a policy victimizes the poor,” Binay said.
Binay said Duterte’s vow to clear the country of criminals in his first six months in office is disturbing.
He said Duterte’s victims were poor, particularly children and old people.
The Davao mayor countered that he has never ordered the killing of women or children, saying they were sent to rehabilitation facilities after they were caught in anti-drug operations.
Duterte challenged Binay to a one-on-one debate on morality and graft and corruption.
Former University of the East law dean Amado Valdez and lawyer Raymond Fortun condemned what they described as “illegal and bloody” means to solve widespread criminality in the country.
Valdez said extrajudicial killings are criminal acts that cannot be justified, as states allowing them could be held liable under international law.
He said the US courts have jurisdiction to hold heads of states liable under the US Alien Torture Act, citing a case where the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos was ordered to pay billions in damages to human rights victims during the martial law years.
Valdez, chairman emeritus of the Philippine Association of Law Schools, said the investigation to be launched on extrajudicial killings should be “non-political.”
“With the political environment, an independent commission is in order,” he suggested, adding that members of academe would be best suited to handle the probe because they are “the least politicized.” – With Mike Frialde, Edu Punay, Robertzon Ramirez, Christina Mendez