Addressing the Philippine National Police (PNP) on its 116th Service Anniversary on Wednesday, August 9, the President recalled talking to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II about the 19 cops before charges were pressed against them.
"In a Cabinet meeting, I told Vit, 'You go for the truth. I have the theory of the police, go and find out what's the truth.' And he said, 'From the witnesses we gathered outside...it all points to murder,'" Duterte narrated.
The President said he told Aguirre to proceed with filing a case against the cops, but clarified that he did not ask for the murder charges to be downgraded to homicide.
"Hindi ako nakikiusap, 'yan tanungin 'nyo (I never ask for favors, ask people). I never influenced my Secretary of Justice in saying you better file a lesser charge. Go ahead, file. Let the courts hear it," he said.
While murder charges were initially filed, the Department of Justice (DOJ), through a resolution signed by Undersecretary Reynante Orceo last June, downgraded the charges to the lesser and bailable offense of homicide.
Even Aguirre distanced himself from the DOJ resolution, saying he "did not have any hand in the drafting" of the order.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said what happened was a "rubout" and the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) recommended dismissal or suspension for the cops involved.
Duterte, however, repeatedly promised to pardon all of them should they be found guilty. (READ: Why Duterte won't leave CIDG 8 cops hanging)