The president-elect of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has promised to use the money left over from his presidential campaign as a bounty to law enforcement officers who kill those suspected of drug dealing.
He made the announcement at a press conference in which he also asserted that many journalists killed in the line of duty deserved it for being “a son of a bitch.”
The press conference was intended to introduce some of Duterte’s choices for his presidential cabinet, as well as discuss the pressing issues he is expected to tackle from day one of his presidency, June 30. Elected on a campaign of zero tolerance for violent crime, Duterte asserted that he would empower the police to eradicate criminal elements that prey on unarmed civilians.
The bounty system would reward arrests “dead or alive,” Duterte said: “If they raise their hands, alive. If they fight back, dead.” With the money left over from his campaign, he said, “I could go as far as maybe 100 persons dead.” He said he would place the rewards, depending on how dangerous those captured are considered, between P50,000 to P3 million, about $1071 to $64,000.
The Philippine Star reports that, in announcing his new cabinet appointees-to-be, he threatened them with severe punishment should they engage in corrupt activities. “I will be harsh. I will be harsh. Basta [enough] corruption, I will be harsh,” he said, asserting that his election was a message loud and clear from the Philippine people: “They do not want their money put inside the pockets of workers of government.” As president, he vowed not to engage in the approval of any projects intended to enrich politicians, adding, “If you don’t believe me, I don’t care. The people chose me.”
The idea of a bounty for killing dangerous criminals surfaced weeks ago in urban Cebu City, where Mayor Tomas Osmena announced that police officers would receive $1,000 for every criminal killed. “I’m there to assist the police, not to prosecute them,” Osmena said in his announcement. At the time, Duterte spokesman Salvador Panelo described the move as a “gimmick,” but added, “to each his own.”
Also among those whose death came up in the cabinet appointment press conference were journalists. “Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch,” Duterte told an audience of mostly journalists. “Most of those killed, to be frank, have done something. You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong.” He cited slain journalist Jun Pala, known as a Duterte critic before his arrest, as being especially worthy of death. “I do not want to diminish his memory but he was a rotten son of a bitch. He deserved it,” he said.
Duterte’s spokesman has claimed that outraged journalists are taking his statements out of context.
Duterte won the presidency of the Philippines vowing a “bloody” tenure as president. “I will use the military and the police to go out and arrest them, hunt for them and if they offer a violent resistance… I will simply say, ‘kill them all so we can finish this problem,’” he said at a campaign stop in April, vowing “1,000 pardons a day” for police brutality. Under his 22-year leadership, the southern metropolis of Davao City has seen its rampant crime problem diminish significantly, though it has also become the home to “death squads” tasked with killing suspected criminals on site with impunity.