Palace defends Duterte remarks on Batangas mayor slay

MANILA — Malacanang on Tuesday defended the remarks made by President Rodrigo Duterte hours after controversial Tanauan City, Batangas Mayor Antonio Halili was assassinated while attending a flag raising ceremony last Monday.

“I will quote from the translation of what the President said, ‘suspicion’. So, it’s a suspicion,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said during a Palace press briefing.

During the 58th Founding Anniversary of Southern Leyte in Maasin City, Duterte said Halili’s killing could be related to illegal drugs.

“I heard today (Monday) that Halili has died. But we’re suspecting that it’s drug-related. It’s just a suspicion,” the President said in his speech before a mammoth crowd.

Duterte said Halili was “putting up a show” when the Tanauan mayor paraded drug offenders and common crime suspects as a measure to rid the city of unlawful activities.

“It was all for show, as he made those drug addicts walk in a procession and get flogged. It wasn’t really…it’s him. It’s really him,” the President said.

Despite his controversial ‘walk of shame’ campaign, Halili has been included in the government’s so-called “narco-list,” prompting the National Police Commission (Napolcom) to strip him of police powers.

Roque said government authorities and law enforcers are committed to leave no stone unturned in finding the truth behind the murder of Halili.

“The promise of the government is there will be substantial and depth investigation so that we will know who was really behind the killing of Mayor Halili,” Roque said.

Asked if the President will visit the wake of slain mayor, Roque said: “I don’t know. It’s not included in his schedules and we have not talked about it”.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Roque advised the public to better wait for the final results of the investigation before making any conclusion.

“With Mayor Halili, you really get mixed messages because he had a walk of shame which was the subject of consternation as far as human groups are concerned; but at the same time he was in the narco-list maintained by the government,” Roque said.

Roque described as ‘premature’ Senator Kiko Pangilinan’s statement that Halili’s death was a clear example of extra judicial killing.

“Premature. We don’t know what is the reason behind the killing. He is speculating as well. So his speculation is as good as anybody’s speculation,” Roque said.

He assured the Palace “cannot sanction this type of killing”.

“This happened in broad daylight, obviously utilizing a very skilled sharp shooter and it’s always the obligation to take steps to investigate, punish the perpetrators because we need to instill fear anew in the hearts of the killers,” Roque said.

“So, I think the position of the Palace to investigate this can stand hand in hand with the suspicion of the President,” he added.