Duterte at the City Council last week. (Davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan)Was Mayor Rodrigo Dutertes unprecedented appearance at the City Council motivated by a serious desire to eradicate the drug problem? If so, why didnt he or the PDEA file cases instead in court against the alleged drug dealers? Was it because of desperation and exasperation — that no matter what Duterte does, illegal drugs continue to proliferate? Or was it meant to spook councilors into giving him more peace and order money in next years budget? Davao Today managing editor Cheryll D. Fiel tries to answer these questions.

Related story: Dutertes Admission of Failure Proves Extrajudicial Killings Not the Answer

DAVAO CITY When Mayor Rodrigo Duterte showed up at the City Council Tuesday last week and, during his testimony, identified some people whom he accused of being drug dealers, the question that quickly came to mind among many is, If he had the evidence, why didnt he a lawyer and a former prosecutor — file appropriate charges against them in court?

According to lawyers and lawmakers interviewed by davaotoday.com, it looked like Duterte made his disclosure during a City Council session precisely because whatever he would say there is considered part of the councils proceedings, thus privileged communication. This would somehow protect the mayor and the councilors from possible defamation suits by the people he called drug pushers.

It was in performance of his duties as required by the councilors,” Councilor Jesus Zozobrado said of Dutertes testimony.

Davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan

But more likely, Duterte himself knew that he or the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) didnt have enough evidence to pin down these alleged drug pushers in court.

In his speech before the councilors, in which he and the PDEA also presented a road map to illegal drugs in Davao City, Duterte emphasized that for anti-drug authorities to successfully prosecute drug dealers, they must be caught red-handed. They must be arrested while committing the crime, the mayor said.

More of an Expos
What the mayor did was more of an expos, to present the case in the bar of public opinion, especially because he had been dared into doing it, said lawyer Carlos Isagani Zarate. Unlike in the courts, one faces the requirement of producing evidence that will convict the person beyond reasonable doubt.

This caveat called due process, however, does not answer the question as to why Duterte identified certain people as drug dealers. If he could name this people in as public a manner as during a City Council session, then certainly he must be 100 percent sure of the veracity of the information on which the identification was based.

But the councilors, who were supposed to affirm or challenge the veracity of Dutertes statements, were, for the most part, mum about this point. In fact, not one of them directly asked the mayor about whatever evidence he had against the alleged drug dealers.

“I don’t know what they have in their hands, Councilor Emmanuel Galicia, the majority floorleader, told davaotoday.com. I don’t know where he (Duterte) got the information. I have trust in the sense that they (PDEA) are supposed to be the investigating officers.”

When asked why the councilors did not verify the information presented to them by Duterte and the PDEA, Galicia replied: “We were there as audience. We were there to listen. We were there not to ask questions.”

Zozobrado, meanwhile, said: “I could not really guess the mind of the mayor. I would not know the reason why he has not brought that to the courts.”

Perhaps it was party loyalty (the council is dominated by Dutertes political party). Or perhaps it was an abiding faith in the ways of the mayor, no matter that these methods –including tacit endorsement of extrajudicial means of dealing with crime go against human rights and due process.


Dutertes testimony at the City Council was unprecedented. The subject he talked about was a serious concern. If we based it on the information that he shared, there was reason to be terrified at the extent illegal drugs have penetrated the city.

In his speech, Duterte said the drug problem has become worse than previously thought. Drugs enter the city through land, sea and air, and drug dealers often use means as clever as using ambulances in transporting drugs. “We could not inspect every vehicle at one time,” Duterte said.

Then he went on to identify the drug dealers and, later, the PDEA presented a road map of drug trafficking in the city.

But the councilors hardly challenged PDEAs assertions. It would have been the opportune time to do so considering that PDEAs credibility itself is under a cloud several of its men in Manila had been caught filching drugs that had been kept by the agency as evidence, later selling these to addicts and dealers.

Desperation and Exasperation

Perhaps part of the motivation to go public was Dutertes desperation and exasperation about the drug problem, particularly the weaknesses in the judicial system that hamper his efforts. He intimated as much to the councilors. He also showed signs of mistrust in the justice system.

Duterte said what makes the drug menace impossible to beat is the fact that big amounts of money from druglords are involved in the deals.

“We have done everything humanly possible to mitigate the problem of drugs here and now, every day, today, but we can never solve the problem on drugs in this country for as long as there is money involved,” he said.

The mayor criticized the Public Attorneys Office for accepting cases defending alleged big-time drug suspects. “A counsel should be more discriminating in handling cases kasi yung drugs million yan,” the mayor said, even mentioning an instance when, during an operation, the raiding team was offered 200 pesos million.

They are arrested, imprisoned for a while and, after a few hours, they walk nonchalantly out of the police station, Duterte said. Its a very sad experience for us to see that.

He added: “We have killed, exterminated a lot of guys, the bad guys connected with that, and I tell you that I’m talking from where I sit, as mayor, I have been fighting this drug problem ever since 1988, as a matter of fact, when I became mayor But the lure of money and the eroding effects of bribery make it impossible to eliminate the problem.”

If the drug problem is left unchecked, he pointed out, we will be producing a generation of zombies. I pity our children.

More Money in Budget?

But more likely, as politicians often do, Dutertes City Council stunt could be motivated by a desire to get more money for his anti-crime campaign, and theres no better way to do that than by persuading the councilors, who approve the citys budget, into giving it.

In his testimony, Duterte identified the mayor Parang town in Maguindanao, Abu Talib, as a drug dealer. Duterte said he based that information on the testimony of a man, who was later killed by unknown assailants.

Based on PDEAs information, Duterte unmasked a network of drug syndicates operating in Southern and Central Mindanao. He named people in the matrix of a so-called “Abu Group,” as well as a a certain Peter Chou who is now at the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa and a John Doe who is said to be an distributor of the Abu group.

He also mentioned Bai Antalin Abu, whose main area of operation is in Cotabato, Kabacan, Digos and Davao City; a certain Ada Akman Ali in Cotabato City; Kagi Lao, also known as Hadji Lao, a distributor; another Ada Akmad Ali, the largest distributor in Cotabato City.

Another group Duterte named is headed by Dong Sinsuat, a leader of a drug group in Kabacan and a certain Manuel Sionco from Cotabato.

Duterte also named two policemen, surnamed Ayao and Echavez, as under investigation for alleged involvement in drugs.

Meanwhile, PDEA regional chief Wilkins Villanueva presented to the council a road map of how drug enters the city from other parts of Mindanao.

Duterte said that some of those he named are already dead or arrested while some are under surveillance. While those alive had been named, he said, they could not be arrested unless caught in the act.

“That is why I will be needing more money for monitoring,” Duterte told the councilors.

Duterte also said he planned to buy shotguns for the barangay police in areas where there are rampant drug transactions. “Because when you are dealing with drug addicts, you are not dealing with normal persons, you are facing zombies,” he said.

He also said he was thinking of buying about 30 bomb- and drug-sniffing canines for the city. “I’ll spend a lot for that because of the dangers,” he told the councilors.

A few days after Dutertes appearance at the council, Councilor Bonifacio Militar, an ally of the mayor, said publicly that there was a need to increase the citys peace-and-order budget and that a drug prevention program separate from the peace-and-order program was needed.

More Violent

In his City Council testimony, Duterte gave a strong hint that his war on drugs will become even more violent.

Known for his tough ways against criminals, Duterte warned: “For those who intend to establish drug laboratories here, I assure you now, publicly, it will be a massacre.”

He explained such rhetoric by saying that criminals must fear Davao City and the only way to do that is for me to blabber my mouth every now and then. But that’s not really the point. The point is, you are using all means, intimidation, threats, whatever, and outright police work and cooperation of the military and the checkpoints to check on the entry of drugs in the city.

In any case, councilors were happy with what transpired last week.

“The council invited him to shed light amid persistent reports that the city might be a dumping ground for drugs, Zozobrado said. So we thought what kind of legislation should the council do in response?

Zozobrado said Dutertes appearance was upon the instance of the council. He thought the mayor just did the right thing. Everyone is exasperated over the drug problem, he said. (Cheryll D. Fiel/davaotoday.com)

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