Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Senator Leila De Lima said Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte could be impeached for admitting to killing suspected criminals when he was Davao City mayor.
De Lima's statement in an interview with Amara Walker on CNN International comes after Duterte told businessmen in a dinner on Monday that he patrolled the streets of Davao City on his motorcycle and killed suspects who resisted authorities.
"I must admit that a third of the killings really happened during police encounters," he said. "And I know it because, in Davao, I used to do it personally, just to show to the guys that if I can do it, why can't you?"
"And I go around Davao with a motorcycle — with the big bike — and I would just patrol the streets and looking for trouble also," the President added. "Talagang naghanap ako ng enkuwentro para makapatay [I really look for encounters so that I could kill]."
However, the President denied killing "people on bended knees with their hands tied at their backs."
For De Lima, a former Justice Secretary and former head of the Commission on Human Rights, this admission is enough basis for an impeachment complaint.
"That is a culpable violation of the Constitution," she noted. "That is betrayal of public trust. And that constitute high crimes because these are mass murders. Mass murders certainly fall under the category of high crimes. And high crimes is a ground for impeachment under our Constitution."
Article 11, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution states that the President may be impeached for "culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust."
De Lima also said although it is "wishful thinking," she hopes that the President's conscience would be struck by the rising death toll and suspected extrajudicial killings in his war on drugs.
"I'm just hoping he starts giving the orders to the police to stop the killings because that is all that it would take: for the President to categorically give that order to stop the killings," she said. "The moment it is done, I'm sure, I'm almost 100% sure that killings would stop."
Duterte has repeatedly denied that the killing in the war on drugs is state-sponsored, arguing that many of the thousands who died were victims of drug syndicates cleaning up their ranks or resisted arrest, forcing the police to kill them in self-defense.
Facing the music
De Lima, who went to Washington, D.C. to receive her recognition as one of the 100 Foreign Policy Global Thinkers 2016, also told Walker she will return to the Philippines to face the drug cases against her, despite threats to her life.
"I have no intention at all to escape," she said. "I have to face it because my conscience is clear. These are fabricated, fabricated accusations and that's why I'm not afraid to face those charges."
De Lima has been accused by the President, high-profile drug dealers and her former driver and bodyguard Ronnie Dayan of soliciting drug money to fund her senatorial campaign.