Senators slam Duterte for offering pardon to 'killer cops'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 30) - Some senators are concerned over President Rodrigo Duterte's promise to eventually grant pardon to policemen who may be convicted of killing a mayor and another individual in Leyte.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a staunch critic of the President, said in a statement Thursday that Duterte's promise proves the killings are state-sponsored.

"As to the policemen who would be encouraged to follow Duterte's illegal orders, they are forewarned that they would eventually answer for all these crimes. Duterte won't be in power forever," Trillanes added.

Duterte said in his speech during the People's Day Celebration in Socorro, Oriental Mindoro yesterday that he will support policemen who "have been charged with murder" because he ordered them to kill if there was resistance.

"Iyan ang order ko. Pag 'yan ang sinusunod ng pulis pati military, huwag kayong matakot ako [That is my order. If the police and military obey that, do not be afraid], I and I alone will be liable for that. They are just obeying my order. So any policeman or military man charged for killing those bastards, they will have my protection," Duterte said.

Eighteen members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of Region 8 (CIDG-8) led by Supt. Marvin Marcos were charged with murder on March 21 for killing Albuerra Mayor Rolando Espinosa.

Read more: Cops linked to Espinosa slay under police custody

Duterte reiterated his office can pardon and grant amnesty, adding he is ready to be liable for any charges filed towards the police.

Read more: Duterte: No prison term for soldiers, police carrying out duty

Senators Grace Poe and Risa Hontiveros raised their concerns with the President's exercise of his powers.

"While the presidential power to pardon convicted criminals is beyond question, the statement of the President in this particular instance in unfortunate as it counters all our efforts to strengthen our legal institutions to ensure that only the guilty are prosecuted and convicted after a judicial process," Poe said.

Poe warned such a statement would send a wrong signal to law enforcers that they can ignore rule of law as they can be pardoned anyway.

She added the public would be discouraged to pursue cases filed against the police because they will immediately have the support of the president.

Hontiveros said it was wrong for Duterte to publicly announce his support for the police.

"With this announcement, the President once again tries to prop up the government's widely discredited, corrupt and abusive war on drugs," she said.

Hontiveros added she supports the findings of Sen. Ping Lacson's committee on public order and dangerous drugs, that Espinosa's death was pre-meditated.