Among those named in a speech early Sunday in the southern city of Davao — once President Rodrigo Duterte’s mayoral stomping ground — were government officials, members of the judiciary, congressmen and police officials.
Duterte, who took office at the end of June, has been aggressively pursuing an anti-crime agenda — with a special focus on ridding the country of illegal drugs.
He said the list has been validated and vetted by the military and police task forces he set up to investigate the illegal drugs “menace.”
All active police officers named have been suspended, but the speech did not expand on the allegations Duterte was making against the officials on the list.
Duterte insisted those accused Sunday have access to a fair trial, although the same protection has not been afforded to many victims of the country’s month-long war on drugs.
“(The accusations) might be true, it might not be true … They should have due process, presumption of innocence,” he said.
Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized the Duterte administration’s heavy-handed approach and say that the methods apparently sanctioned by the government have resulted in hundreds of extrajudicial killings.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s “Kill List,” regarded as one of the most accurate records of the killings of suspected drug dealers by police and vigilantes, recorded the deaths of 524 people suspected of drug crimes between June 30, the day Duterte assumed office, and August 4.
During his speech, Duterte said he knew several people on his list personally, but read them out regardless as duty “compelled him to disclose their names.”
Before reading the list of names, he said the accused would be suspended, any firearm permits they held rescinded, and ordered them to surrender to the Philippines National Police (PNP).
“Once you hear your name mentioned here, you are now relieved of your present assignment. Report to the PNP within 24 hours or I will order the entire armed forces and the police to hunt for you,” he said. The judges he named were ordered to report to the Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. surrendered after being accused of links to the illegal drug trade. “(PNP Chief) General Dela Rosa would kill me if I didn’t turn myself in”, he said at a news conference.
Espinosa’s lawyer, Romeu Sterotoulas, told the media that his client has nothing to do with illegal drug operations in his town.
The so-called “Duterte effect” has seen a massive spike in extrajudicial killings of those suspected of involvement in the drug trade.
Duterte and Philippines prosecutors maintain that the shoot-to-kill policies are legal and that many of the suspects died in shootouts with police.
This naming-and-shaming is the latest in a litany of hardline measures aimed at ridding the Southeast Asian country of crime, most notably drug- related offenses.
In his speech, Duterte said there were as many as 600,000 people connected to the drug trade in the country, including both dealers and users, and blamed the high number on the complicity of “government personnel” who are “into the (illegal drug trade).”