Philippines President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, in a speech Saturday, encouraged armed civilians to arrest and kill drug dealers and violent criminals, even offering “a medal” to those who take it upon themselves to kill a criminal.
Duterte’s speech in general called for Philippine citizens to participate actively in cooperating with police to rid the nation of its growing crime problem, which has made many of its islands barely inhabitable and devastated its tourism industry. He spoke to a crowd in his hometown, Davao City, where his 22-year term as mayor was defined largely by his administration’s turning Davao into the safest city on southern Mindanao.
“Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun — you have my support,” he told citizens regarding the arrest of criminals. “Shoot him and I’ll give you a medal.”
Under Philippine law, any Filipino citizen over the age of 21 who has a full-time job can apply for a gun license and will be allowed to freely purchase guns after passing background checks.
Duterte identified not only common criminals as a major challenge facing his administration, but corrupt police officials. He cited three police generals in particular whom he accused of “crucifying the Filipino” by aiding drug criminals. “If you’re still into drugs, I will kill you, don’t take this as a joke. I’m not trying to make you laugh, son of a bitch, I will really kill you,” he said, addressing them directly. Reports from the speech say the crowd responded to his threat with “loud jeers and applause.”
Duterte also accused a number of police officials who had previously been investigated for corruption of giving their colleagues bribes to keep their jobs. He is seeking to reopen many of these cases to find evidence of bribery. The Philippine Star notes that calling out police corruption was a cornerstone of the Duterte campaign, with the president-elect going so far as to threaten to burn down a prison notorious for being a hub of drug trafficking, with the quiet blessing of its guards. He has also vowed to shut down the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), once again citing corruption.
Last week, Duterte announced he would provide bounties for both police and civilians who manage to capture drug offenders “dead or alive,” using the money left over from his presidential campaign. He reiterated this promise Monday, asserting that he had enough money left in his coffers to pay for the arrest or killing of 200 criminals.
“I have money good for 200 persons. Tanang drug lord ihawa ninyo (Kill all the drug lords),” he told reporters. He is currently offering nearly $110,000 for the capture of “large-scale drug traffickers” and a smaller bounty of $21,600 for lower-ranking organized criminals.
Duterte has sparked controversy for months with a series of blunt comments threatening to kill a variety of criminals. Most recently, he dismissed the murder of journalists in Davao city, asserting that journalists who cavort with criminals deserve to die. Responding to the backlash, Duterte once again warned journalists, “Do not f*ck with me.”
Multiple United Nations agencies have condemned Duterte’s comments, calling them “irresponsible in the extreme.” While the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has a working relationship with the government of the Philippines, its participation in panel talks with government officials has done little to curb violent crime in the Asian nation.