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CULTURE OF IMPUNITY

In wake of Halili slay, opposition solons cite Duterte comments on removing mayors


Members of the House opposition cited recent remarks by President Rodrigo Duterte on replacing incumbent mayors through illegal means in the wake of the killing of Tanauan Mayor Antonio Halili, which they cited as proof of the prevailing culture of impunity in the country.

ACT Teachers party-list Representative Antonio Tinio alleged that Duterte may have "something to do" with Halili's killing, noting the President's recent statement in Bohol, where the President jokingly urged vice mayors to replace their mayor through illegal means.

"Ang punto rito, kung ikaw ang presidente at nagbibiro ka ng ganyan, sa kalagayang realidad ang mga political killing na ganyan, ay talagang malaking bagay ito na lumilikha ng climate of impunity," Tinio said.

"Sa madaling sabi, may pananagutan si Presidente sa mga nangyayari dahil sa mga pahayag niya," he added.

Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano made the same observation.

"While an investigation is yet to be carried out, there is an impression that this case is related to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs," he said.

"What is more troubling is that this heinous crime comes at the heels of President Duterte’s speech in Bohol wherein he egged vice mayors to replace their mayors through illegal means," he added.

In his speech on June 28, Duterte joked that vice mayors can remove mayors by kidnapping or hexing them.

"The earlier you do away with your mayor, the earlier you become the mayor also," Duterte said. "Alam mo, wala na tayong ginawa dito [kundi] kalokohan," he added.

Tinio said Duterte's statement only contributed to the culture of impunity.

Regardless of who committed the crime, Alejano said the incident showed emboldened perpetrators who have no respect for the law.

"Cases such as this heighten the sense of impunity already prevailing under present situation of peace and order in our communities," he said.

"Nasaan na ngayon ang pangakong pagsugpo ng kriminalidad sa loob lamang ng tatlo hanggang anim na buwan na iniyayabang ng administrasyon? Instead of feeling safe, Filipinos are feeling more unsecured today," he added.

For his part, Bayan Muna party-list Carlos Zarate said: "Ito yung talagang realidad na merong state of impunity sa ating bansa na parang hindi safe lahat, mayor ka man, pari ka man, or ordinaryong mamamayan." 

"Sa susunod na araw, sino na naman ang susunod na tutumba diyan? So it's a failure of the anti-crime campaign," he added.

'Tombstone'

Halili was shot dead Monday morning while attending the city hall's flag raising ceremony.

He was known for parading alleged drug suspects in infamous "walks of shame" which prompted an investigation by the Commission on Human Rights.

Despite his stance against drugs, Halili was among the local officials who was stripped of police power for alleged links to the illegal drug trade.

Akbayan party-list Representative Tom Villarin, meanwhile, said the Duterte administration's war on drugs seems like the "tombstone" of suspects and personalities killed without due process.

"While Mayor Halili has been indicted for his alleged involvement in drugs and condemned by the CHR (Commission on Human Rights) for his 'walk of shame' campaign for drug pushers in Tanauan, his assassination in broad daylight shows how the rule of law has been abandoned," he said.

"It’s now open season for killers and assassins to ply their trade with impunity," he added.

Police have already formed a task force to look into Halili's killing. —RSJ/JST, GMA News