By Keith Bacongco and AFP
Davao City — Peter Lim, a Cebu-businessman tagged by police as a “drug lord” in the Visayas, surrendered to President Duterte at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) office here shortly before midnight Friday supposedly to clear his name following threats to his life.
Lim denied he was the Chinese-Filipino drug dealer Peter Lim singled out in a national address last July 7 whom the President vowed would be killed on sight.
The Cebu businessman denied any involvement in illegal drugs but admitted he was investigated in 1997 for alleged links to narcotics.
Peter Lim is a fairly common name in the Philippines, where part of the population claims ethnic Chinese descent. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has recorded thousands of people with the name Peter Lim in the Philippines.
Duterte told Lim if he wants to clear his name, he should submit himself for investigation before the NBI and warned him to steer clear of narcotics.
However, the President told him during the meeting that if investigation shows he is involved in illegal drug activities, “I will execute you… I will finish you off!”
“We want to help you. Help us clear you. We are not here to pin down innocent citizens; pero drug lord, talagang mainit ako (but when it comes to drug lords, I am really incensed),” Duterte added.
In the video of the meeting, Lim was heard telling the President: “I could clear up everything because my family is really in deep problem now in Cebu. In any way, I will help, in all my ways I can.” Lim runs a string of business in Cebu.
But Duterte shot back: “I will not say I’m sorry because the reason you’re here is you’re a suspected drug lord.”
Duterte built a fearsome anti-crime reputation as long-time mayor of Davao City, where he would read out the names of drug suspects on his local radio program and the shamed personalities would later turn up dead on city streets.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director Isidro Lapena said, “there is no specific instruction but the President told him (Lim) to have his case probed.” Lim was not detained and was allowed to return to Cebu. He then pledged cooperation in Duterte’s anti-crime campaign.
“Our nation is very lucky to have you. You’re the only President who could save our nation. You really mean business,” Lim told the President during the meeting.
But when he was about to leave and offered to shake the President’s hand. “I’m sorry I cannot shake your hand,” Duterte said.
Meanwhile, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ismael “Mike” Sueno warned governors and mayors Friday that they may be charged with neglect of duty if they fail to address the problem of illegal drugs in their areas.
Aside from this, Sueno said ‘inept’ local executives may also lose their National Police Commission (Napolcom) deputation which gives them direct operational supervision over police units in their jurisdiction.
“We are giving them six months from now up to December. If they cannot lower the number of people with drug addiction in their area, they may be faced with serious neglect of duty,” said Sueno.
“The Department is prepared and persistent in making our communities safe by first eliminating drug menace. We are checking and ensuring that mayors are our partners in this law-given mandate in maintaining peace and order,” he added.
He said that under the law, local chief executives (LCEs) are mandated to eradicate problems on drugs in their area of jurisdiction.
“It is one of the reasons why mayors of cities and municipalities are deputized by the Napolcom vis-a-vis the Philippine National Police (PNP) so they can have a direct operational supervision over PNP personnel assigned in their respected areas,” he explained.
In the Lower House, incoming Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is cold to proposals to probe drug-related killings in the House of Representatives.
“Congress needs to pass too many laws to waste its time on an investigation on something that should be left in the hands of the Department of Justice and the NBI,” said Alvarez.
“I don’t want any insinuation that the drug lords are using members of Congress to investigate the police so the latter would go slow on their campaign against illegal drugs,” said Alvarez.
Alvarez said that if indeed some of the killings may prove to be instances of summary executions, he sees no new laws that may be passed by Congress to address what may already be illegal acts.
“For if in the course of an investigation, the evidence should point to extra-judicial killing — that’s already illegal. So, what new law may be passed in relation to that?” he asked. (with reports from Yas D. Ocampo, PNA, Chito A. Chavez and Elena L. Aben)