Palace: Duterte's 'sabotage' claim not to clear police of drug war killings

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Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella says the killings of minors should be investigated thoroughly. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 11) —  The President's claim of groups trying to 'sabotage' the administration's drug war does not clear erring policemen of their crimes, Malacañang said Thursday.

"He's not clearing the police by any means alone. He's not in any way saying that directly. But he is certainly bringing in a new element regarding the drug war," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a press briefing.

Abella added that killings of minors should be investigated thoroughly, as the President's claim of saboteurs is not "just a figment of his imagination".

"I'm sure there are certain elements, there are certain personalities out there... who apparently are actively engaged in discrediting the President's campaign," he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said the recent spate of teenage killings are meant to sabotage the police's anti-drug and anti-crime campaign.

But Abella clarified the President is still committed to prosecute policemen involved in unlawful killings.

"The campaign against the drug war is not a license to commit crime," he repeated.

On the Carl Arnaiz case

The Presidential Spokesperson also said the National Bureau of Investigation is conducting a parallel probe in the killing of 19-year-old Carl Arnaiz, who was involved in a police shootout in Caloocan last August 18.

"We look forward to Mr. Tomas Bagcal's cooperation with authorities, as he willingly expressed during his press conference," Abella said.

Bagcal, the taxi driver in Arnaiz case, appeared before reporters Sunday. He claimed it was Arnaiz who tried to rob him, but he managed to turn him over to police alive.

Bagcal also said the killing of his assailant felt 'staged', and that he was forced to sign two affidavits from the police saying that Arnaiz resisted arrest.

When Abella was asked on the possibility of the staged killing, he said the case should be subjected to proper investigation.

"We cannot speculate about whether there are saboteurs or non-saboteurs... especially affecting the deaths of young people.," Abella said.

Arnaiz is one of the three minors recently found dead amid the administration's war on drugs. Last August, 17-year-old Kian delos Santos was found dead after a Caloocan drug raid.

The body of 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman, who was last seen with Arnaiz on August 18, was also identified by his parents, after being found in a creek in Gapan, Nueva Ecija.

However, police said Monday DNA test conducted on the body revealed it was not de Guzman.