President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday threatened to kill Cebuano businessman Peter Lim if authorities prove that he is one of the country's top three drug lords.
In a seemingly cordial meeting in Davao City on Friday, a video of which was posted on the Facebook account of state-run RTVM, Duterte said he would finish Lim off if investigations point to him as a drug lord.
"Nagbanta gyud ko nimo na ipapatay ta ka. Sa tinood lang ipapatay ta gayud ka. Basta masilip nako [nga apil ka] tiwasan ta gyud ka. (I warned you that I will have you killed. I will really have you killed. If I'm able to prove [you're a drug lord], I will finish you off)," Duterte told Lim straight in the eye.
In response, Lim, who is of Chinese descent, said his name was just linked during a congressional investigation.
However, Duterte retorted, "nganong moaso man. kung naay aso naay [kayo] (if there's smoke, there's fire). Why does your name keep coming out in the investigations?"
"I would advise you to submit yourself to investigation under my administration," Duterte added.
The video of Duterte's meeting with Lim was based on a report by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)-Region XI.
Malacañang earlier revealed the names of three persons, including Lim, who are allegedly running the illegal drug trade in the country.
The Palace said retired Police Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo is the alleged protector of the three suspected drug lords.
Garbo is one of the five retired and active police officials tagged by Duterte in the illegal drug trade.
Duterte asked Lim, "Kahibaw kang gisuspetsahan kang drug lord?" (Do you know that you are suspected to be a drug lord?)." Lim said, "Yes" in Cebuano.
The President then asked Lim: "Giimbestigahan ka sa Congress? (Were you investigated by Congress?)"
Lim said, "[In] 1997... 2001, I'm not so sure about the years."
Duterte said he does remember an investigation into Lim's case when he was a congressman.
Duterte then cited reports that Lim has been in and out of the country. "Regular commuter ka?"
Lim said the trips were mostly with his family. "Holy Week, usually Holy Week kuyog ko sa akong pamilya."
Submit self to probe
However, Duterte said Lim's name has been coming out in the illegal drugs investigations.
"We want to help you...help us clear you," the President told Lim.
Duterte advised Lim to go to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters in Manila to clear allegations that he is a member of the drug triad in the country.
"I will advise strongly to submit yourself to investigation under my administration," the President said.
"Pero if you have the time, you may want to bring along a lawyer. Walay problema na (There's no problem with that). It's a [constitutional right]. Dili ka kailangan mahadlok (You don't have to be afraid)," he added.
To facilitate his testimony, Duterte asked Lim to approach either Solicitor General Jose Calida or Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, who holds office near the NBI compound.
"I could clear up everything because my family is really in deep problem now in Cebu. They are getting all the threats," Lim said.
The businessman also pledged support for the Duterte administration's fight against drugs.
"I'm with you all the way, Mr. President.," Lim said.
Not Peter Lim the drug lord
At the end of the meeting, Duterte seemed convinced that the businessman was not the top drug lord with the same name.
"I would conclude nga dili ikaw nang Peter Lim nga giingong drug lord (I would conclude that you are not the Peter Lim who is said to be a drug lord)," he said.
The Bureau of Immigration had said that it has on record at least 4,000 people with the name Peter Lim.
Lim replied: "I would not say 100 percent, Mr. President. I would say 500 percent. Wa gyud ko intawon anang negosyoha (I'm not into the illegal drug trade)."
Lim also recalled his father telling him and his siblings not to make money from businesses that destroy people's lives like illegal drugs.
"Help us clear you. We are not here to pin down innocent citizens," Duterte said.
Duterte, however, apologized that he could not shake Lim's hand.
"Yes, I understand. Because if I’m not cleared, I don’t dare, I will put up my hands to you because our nation is very lucky to have you because without you i don't know. You are the only President who could save our nation. You really mean business," Lim said.
Duterte won the presidency on a campaign platform anchored on a promise to fight drugs, crime, and corruption within three to six months upon assuming office.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday reported that 65,000 drug users and pushers have surrendered to authorities as part of the Duterte administration's anti-drug campaign.
Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar, in a statement on Friday, said Duterte is resolute in his campaign against drugs.
Amid the reported increase in the number of drug-related killings, Andanar emphasized, “Government is against any form of extra judicial killings. We do not condone these acts."
"Government is here to save our people from the drug menace and punish the offenders, including the big-time ones. The PNP continues to investigate situations involving vigilante killings and operational aspects where deaths are reported,” he said. —Veronica Pulumbarit and Virgil Lopez/LBG/ALG, GMA News