April 1 (UPI) — Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said he will pardon 19 police officers accused of killing a town mayor who had been arrested on suspicion of drug charges.
Duterte’s controversial remark sparked condemnations from opposition leaders in the nation’s legislature and promises those officers will eventually be held accountable.
Duterte has presided over scores of extrajudicial killings by police and the military for individuals accused of participating in the drug trade.
Among the most recent victims was Rolando Espinosa, the mayor of the town of Albuerra. Espinosa was killed in jail in November, leading to 19 police officers’ arrests on March 21.
Duterte said in a speech the officers should just plead guilty so they can avoid trial and he can pardon them.
“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.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who opposes Duterte’s tactics, said the officers’ actions will not be forgotten.
“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 said.