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President Rodrigo Duterte has dared Senator Leila de Lima to file an impeachment case against him for defending the cops who figured in the death of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa.

"They can go ahead. Bakit pa mas maraming daldal? Sige na, impeach na... Hayaan mo sila. Sige impeachable, go ahead," he said in a chance interview during the inauguration of the Bicol International Airport.

Duterte said he still believes the side of the Philippine National Police (PNP)-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Eastern Visayas team on the death of Espinosa even after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said the mayor died in a rubout instead of a shootout.

De Lima argued that Duterte's statement was a "betrayal of public trust." 

In a statement on Thursday, De Lima branded Duterte as a “murderer” and “father of all EJKs” (extrajudicial killings) for defending the cops tagged in the slay of Espinosa while under police custody.

De Lima claimed that Duterte’s remarks on the killing are an admission that he ordered Espinosa's murder. 

However, Chief presidential legal counsel Secretary Salvado Panelo debunked De Lima's statement, saying that Duterte was only carrying out his duty to protect members of the PNP.

"Why should it be an impeachable offense? Is it even an offense? It is a duty being done by president?" Panelo said in a chance interview with reporters in Malacañang.

"The duty of the President is to protect the members of the PNP who are enforcing the law, his instructions," he added.

Panelo also pointed out that the NBI results are yet to affirmed by a court.

"The NBI results show that the NBI does not interfere with any government agency doing their work, eh di sana iba ang resulta. But it doesn't mean NBI is correct, because the courts have to decide whether they are correct or not," he said.

"The presumption of innocence applies to all criminals in this case. Moreover, the assumption of regularity has yet to be overcome, it is the duty of the President to provide and help his people to defend himself," he added.

For his part, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Duterte only gave his opinion on the NBI findings.

"The President did nothing wrong. He merely exercised his freedom of expression to render an opinion (on the Espinosa case)," Aguirre told reporters.

Aguirre also found the impeachment threat as baseless.

"'Yan ang mahirap sa mga abugadong nag-aabugaduhan. It's just an opinion (of the President)," he said.  with Virgil Lopez/VVP, GMA News


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