Duterte: There is no Davao Death Squad

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Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte

(CNN Philippines) — This time, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s denial was clear and straight to the point: There is no Davao Death Squad (DDS).

"I have denied that DDS is a criminal group. There's no such thing as a DDS. There's only a Davao Development System — that is my guiding principle," Duterte told reporters in a press conference Tuesday (May 26).

The maverick mayor also lashed back at Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, who said on Monday (May 25) that Duterte could be held criminally liable for allegedly admitting his ties to the shadowy vigilante squad that human rights groups blame for the extrajudicial deaths of some 1,000 crime suspects in Davao City since the 1990s.

Duterte ridiculed De Lima for easily believing the supposed admission he made in the locally-aired weekly television program Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa over the weekend.

"I told you not to bullshit me. When we talked about it here long before the hearings, I told you that I really don't do those things (extrajudicial killings). Because I'm a lawyer like you," Duterte said.

De Lima earlier confirmed that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is looking into the reported involvement of the DDS in the said summary killings and human rights abuses.

Related: Duterte to De Lima, accusers: So sue me!

As he challenged De Lima to file a case against him in court, Duterte threatened to do the same. He said that he was considering filing an administrative case against the cabinet member for negligence of duty after citing the recent raids that uncovered lax management at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.

"I already told you once to look at your own backyard, especially Muntinlupa. By sheer, culpable neglect — you didn't do anything. Only recently, you conducted raids," Duterte said. "You built a Hilton Hotel right in Muntinlupa. You allowed it. I told you: 'Look at your own backyard.' I will make sure that you will have to account for it."

Ultimately, Duterte described De Lima's failure to monitor the NBP as a "criminal neglect."

"There (NBP), inmates can come and go as they please. They even produce drugs inside the facility and you have the gall to accuse me of extrajudicial killings. You fatten criminals inside prison."

Duterte also said that De Lima was the one who started this exchange — that he is only defending himself because he was provoked by the Justice secretary.

Although he flatly denied allegations of summary killings, Duterte admitted to helping the Philippine National Police improve anti-drug operations by providing them with monetary assistance.

"I'm only answerable to the people of Davao City — you elected me as your mayor. I'm not answerable to anybody else," Duterte said.

Malacañan, meanwhile, reminded the city mayor to uphold the rule of law on Tuesday (May 26).

"Ang ating paniwala ay rule of law o batas ang umiiral sa ating bansa at tungkulin ng pangulo bilang chief executive na ipatupad ang lahat ng mga batas at ang pinaniniwalaan nating prinsipyo ay ito na ang mga lingkod-bayan ay dapat na pinaiiral din 'yung batas," said Presidential Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma.

[Translation: "Our belief is that the rule of law is what prevails in our country and it is the responsibility of the president, as chief executive, to make sure that laws are implemented. In turn, we believe that that all public servants uphold the rule of law."]

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario and Ben Tesiorna contributed to this report.