Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says a man who has admitted using illegal drugs will be among the top five presidential candidates.
Earlier, Duterte dismissed as a rumor the possibility that an extra-judicial death squad led by his former police chief carried out killings during his anti-crime crackdown.
The longtime mayor of the southern city of Davao made the comments as a panel of judges said Monday they will not remove him from office after he was charged with dereliction of duty. The panel dismissed the allegation despite Duterte’s own admission that his campaign ordered vigilante killings.
“Every human being makes mistakes. It does not mean all human beings are murderers. … Right now, we have a presidential candidate who has used drugs,” Duterte said in a broadcast Monday night. “So next time they say that no more vigilante killings in the Philippines, can I just remind them that it was not a vigilante killing. It was a sanctioned killing.”
“We’ve had to do extra police duty in Buhangin (Davao city) and San Fernando. Can you believe they said that they’re in the middle of a revolt?” he said.
According to Duterte, the man, also alleged to be a drug dealer, was seen in campaign propaganda, alongside a former president and other members of the other presidential candidates.
“He had been taken to a hotel in Davao and he was given a campaign video made about my campaign, and on the part of the television and radio, we have a presidential candidate, Ogie (Marcos), who is taken to my campaign video. We have former president Fidel Ramos and his son, who was taken to the same video, and there is a PR lady (Clemente Sotto III),” Duterte said.
He said the presidential election was a ballot between two evils.
Duterte’s remarks came a day after the panel dismissed his impeachable offense, replacing it with five lesser offenses. The panel will next hear the allegations Feb. 1.
Duterte has repeatedly dismissed allegations of unlawful killings by his police, admitting that he himself ordered vigilante killings. At least thousands have been killed, mostly drug suspects, during his 20-month-old rule.
In Oct. 23, Duterte was indicted by a City Court in Davao on multiple counts, including that he failed to stop killings that resulted in their killings by a powerful police anti-drug squad. He had been summoned to answer the accusations but refused to appear.
Afterward, Duterte asked to meet the panel of judges behind closed doors. However, they ordered that the session be made public. Duterte and the judges were seated side by side in a leather-covered armchair in the open section of the court.
The panel said that Duterte’s witnesses could present evidence of his alleged corruption during his term but would not be provided with the evidence they need to rebut the allegations.
Last month, Duterte raised doubts that the panel was impartial, saying he could not believe that any of the people on the panel, including the chief justice, were supporters of his. He also suggested that the panel was using a “dirty trick” to remove him from office and scare others.
Duterte, 72, has relentlessly cursed his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, and most recently Congress for the impeachment proceedings.
More than 7,000 people have been killed in drug-related killings since Duterte took office in 2016, according to police statistics. Human rights advocates have challenged the police account, saying that the majority of the killings are being carried out by vigilantes or by police under pressure to show that their campaign is successful.
More than 4,000 suspects have been murdered since Duterte’s deadly crackdown was intensified a year ago, according to figures from an independent police oversight body.