President Duterte has ordered the Philippine National Police to solve the gruesome murder of a 16-year-old girl in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu province, on Sunday, dismissing the police angle that the teenager was killed by a cult.
Duterte did not name the girl in a stump speech in Isabela province on Wednesday night, but he was clearly referring to Christine Silawan, a Grade 9 student at Maribago National High School in Lapu-Lapu City.
"[On Sunday] they killed [a girl]. They skinned her face," Duterte said. "Her face was gone. Only the skull was left."
Silawan was last seen alive on Sunday when she left home to hear Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish Church in Barangay Mactan.
Her mutilated body was found the next day, dumped on a vacant lot at Barangay Bangkal.
Part of her face had been flayed, exposing the skull.
The autopsy showed she had been stabbed 30 times in the neck and body.
Her tongue, trachea, esophagus and parts of her neck and her right ear were missing.
"The killers [of] the girl, the police said it's a cult," Mr. Duterte said.
"Hunt them, [the killers] of the girl who was skinned," he said he told the police, indicating he did not believe in the cult angle.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Thursday that the President had ordered the police to hunt down the killers.
"We think that this was done by a drug addict," Panelo told reporters.
Asked why he thought the killer was a drug addict, Panelo replied: "Is there anyone who would do that? Can you believe the face was skinned? My goodness."
Asked how a drug addict could have acquired the surgical skill required to make clean cuts and remove organs with precision, Panelo said it was possible if the drug addict was a surgeon or had training in surgery.
Cebu authorities are offering a P2-million (S$51,000) reward for information that will lead to the identification and arrest of the killers.
Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale said on Thursday that the Provincial Council for the Welfare of Children would contribute P200,000 to the reward, while Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza promised to put up P1 million.
Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino pledged P100,000 during a visit to Silawan's home in Mactan on Thursday.
Dino said another P100,000 was coming from Philippine Postal Corp. Chair Norman Fulgencio.
He said their pledges involved personal funds.
Dino handed to Silawan's family P20,000 from Duterte.
Don Davis, an American retiree who lives in Ormoc City, Leyte province, pledged P500,000, while the Police Regional Advisory Council promised to donate P100,000.
Lourdes Silawan, the victim's mother, said she had asked the city government for financial help to bury her daughter.
ONE SUSPECT IDENTIFIED
Senior Supt. Limuel Obon, Lapu-Lapu City Office director, said investigators had identified a suspect in the killing.
Obon, however, refused to divulge the suspect's identity so as not to jeopardise the investigation and manhunt for the killers.
The Cebu Provincial Police Office is looking into the possibility that the killers of Silawan are the same as those behind the murder of 62-year-old farmer Trening Batucan in Danao City in January.
Batucan was also flayed from the head to the chest.
Senior Supt. Manuel Abrugena, Cebu provincial police director, said brothers Jovy, Junrey and Jonas Buenos had been identified as suspects in the killing of Batucan.
Jovy and Junrey have been killed in a police operation, while Jonas remains at large, Abrugena said.
He said investigators had received reports that the brothers were members of a cult.
"We do not have evidence yet [that] they are members of a cult. But we are considering that or they are just a group of people who were under the influence of drugs when the crime was committed," Abrugena said.