Bato won't inhibit from drug war probe: 'Ako ba ang pumatay?'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 25) — Senator-elect Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, who led the administration's bloody war on drugs for almost two years, refused to inhibit himself from Senate investigations on alleged extrajudicial killings.

Dela Rosa is expected to chair the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs amid calls to hold him accountable for enforcing President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war, which has now resulted in over 6,000 deaths.

READ: Renewed calls for justice as drug war top cop Bato heads to Senate

But the incoming lawmaker sees no reason to inhibit from a Senate probe on the killings.

"Bakit ako mag-iinhibit? Ako ba ang pumatay? Hindi naman ako ang pumatay (Why will I inhibit? Was I the one who killed? I wasn't)," he told reporters as he attended an orientation for new senators.

He said he will not be biased in investigating allegations against his former police officers.

"Iba ako ngayon, senador na. Senador na ko. Hindi na ako pulis (I am different now; I'm a senator. I'm no longer a policeman)."

In an interview with CNN Philippines' News Night, Dela Rosa stressed that he would be willing to give up the lead in hearings if it is proven that he could not preside effectively.

"If you think na hindi natin ma-achieve yung purpose ng hearing na 'yan because of me chairing that particular committee then bakit ko ipagpatuloy pa (why continue with it), what's the use," he said.

He added, "Kung nakita ko naman na kaya nating i-achieve yung objective ng hearing na yun, then bakit natin hindi gampanan?"

[Translation: If I see that I can achieve the objective of the hearing, then why will I not fulfill my job?]

Dela Rosa was chief of the Philippine National Police when Duterte launched the drug war in 2016. Under his watch, Duterte suspended the flagship anti-drug campaign "Oplan Tokhang" amid alleged police abuses, and tasked the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to take the lead role in the fight against drugs.

Government data show 6,600 drug suspects were killed during anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to May 31, 2019. The police said the suspects resisted arrest and fought back.

CNN Philippines' Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.