Duterte to mayor and son: Surrender or die

President issues threat over alleged drug trafficking

Ms Olayres weeping over the body of her husband on July 23. He was gunned down by vigilantes, according to police. A cardboard sign found near the body reads: "Pusher Ako", which translates to "I am a drug pusher."
Ms Olayres weeping over the body of her husband on July 23. He was gunned down by vigilantes, according to police. A cardboard sign found near the body reads: "Pusher Ako", which translates to "I am a drug pusher."PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday called on the mayor of Albuera, in Leyte province, and his son to surrender over alleged drug trafficking or risk being killed if they attempt to resist arresting officers.

"President Rodrigo R. Duterte demanded the surrender of Mayor Ronaldo Espinosa Sr, of Albuera, Leyte, and his son, Kerwin Espinosa, on the grounds of drug trafficking and coddling, within 24 hours, otherwise an order of 'shoot on sight' will be given if they resist and endanger the lives of arresting police officers," presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

Mr Espinosa's staff were earlier arrested during a buy-bust operation where officers seized 1.9 million pesos (S$54,000) worth of shabu, or methamphetamine

While two of the mayor's bodyguards and three employees were arrested, four managed to escape by sprinting into the house of Mr Kerwin Espinosa and locking the gate. The mayor was said to have gone away on leave.

Church groups, rights advocates and some sections of the media have criticised Mr Duterte's war on drugs and expressed alarm at what they have termed extrajudicial killings. More than 500 people, mostly poor drug users, have been killed since he was elected.

As of July 30, the statistics stood at 525 killed: 170 in vigilante attacks and 355 during police operations.

One woman whose husband was killed for allegedly being a drug pusher, has a message for Mr Duterte: "Kill drugs, not people."

Ms Jennilyn Olayres' husband, Mr Michael Siaron, was gunned down on July 23 by motorcycle-riding men in Pasay City.

A piece of cardboard with the words "drug pusher" written on i was left at the scenet.

Ms Olayres conceded that Mr Siaron, 29, was a drug user, but she said it was impossible that he was a dealer because they were too poor and could barely pay for their next meal. He made money by driving a pedicab - a bicycle with a sidecar - and did odd jobs, she said.

He voted for Mr Duterte in the May 9 presidential election, Ms Olayres said in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Sunday. But six weeks after Mr Siaron cast his vote, he became a statistic, falling along with five other men gunned down by suspected vigilantes in Pasay and Manila early on July 23.

Recalling the moment she found her husband's body, Ms Olayres said she thought he was just hit by a stray bullet and could still be alive. But he was dead.

"When I was cradling him, I was thinking, 'How long have you been lying here?' Nobody bothered to help him. I was furious," she said.

Photographers surrounded her behind a police cordon as she held her husband's body.

The next day, the Inquirer published a front-page photo of a weeping Ms Olayres cradling the body of Mr Siaron, an image that went viral on the Internet, sounding a global alarm over human rights violations in the Philippines.

But that picture failed to touch Mr Duterte. He mentioned it in his inaugural State of the Nation Address to Congress on July 25, calling it melodramatic and seeking to evoke La Pieta, Michelangelo's 1499 sculpture depicting a scene from the Deposition of Jesus.

"You are portrayed in a broadsheet like (the Virgin) Mary cradling the (body) of Jesus Christ. Let's do drama here," Mr Duterte said in response to the public outrage inspired by the photo.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline 'Duterte to mayor and son: Surrender or die'. Subscribe