Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief bodyguard told Filipinos on Wednesday to stop “threatening” the president after two people were arrested in the past 24 hours for offering cash bounties to anyone willing to kill the polarizing leader, Philippine news outlet Coconuts Manila reported.
Ronnel Mas, a public high school teacher from Zambales, on the main island of Luzon, was arrested on Tuesday by Philippine authorities after he offered a $993,900 bounty to anyone willing to kill Duterte. According to the suspect, he announced the challenge via his Twitter account because he “wanted to gain more clout” on social media.
Later the same day, Ronald Quiboyen, a 40-year-old construction worker from the western island of Boracay, seemed to have been inspired by the school teacher’s post, as he announced through his Facebook page that he would reward twice the amount the teacher offered, $1.9 million, to anyone willing to kill the president.
“To anyone who can kill Duterte, I will double the PHP50 million [$993,900], and make it PHP100 million [$1.9 million]. You can find me in Boracay,” the 40-year-old suspect wrote in his Facebook post.
Quiboyen’s post was shared on social media by several island residents and soon caught the attention of Boracay police, who arrested the man at his residence hours after his challenge was published. Authorities told Coconuts Manila that the suspect will be charged for “inciting sedition.”
The arrests prompted the head of the Philippines’ Presidential Security Group (PSG) to issue a statement on Wednesday, warning citizens not to threaten the president’s safety.
“I would just like to convey to the people not to be involved in any way of threatening the President or anybody especially with the use of social media,” PSG Commander Col. Jesus Durante III said in a statement.
“Anybody could be held liable if he threatens to harm or kill a person, what more if the one that is threatened is the president of the republic,” Durante added.
According to his statement, the PSG chief plans to coordinate with Philippine law enforcement agencies to “monitor and apprehend those who are responsible for such acts.”
Duterte has faced criticism from Filipinos for cracking down on ordinary citizens with excessive force, as in his “war on drugs” that has seen extrajudicial killings of alleged drug criminals. Critics accuse Duterte of failing to exercise the same level of scrutiny with alleged corrupt officials in his own administration.
Recently, this double standard was demonstrated in the context of the ongoing Chinese coronavirus pandemic. In March, a Philippine senator, who had just tested positive for the coronavirus, entered a maternity ward with his pregnant wife, brazenly defying coronavirus security measures prohibiting him from both leaving his home and entering a wing of the hospital highly vulnerable to infection at the time. This happened hours before hundreds of ordinary Filipinos were arrested on the island of Luzon for violating strict quarantine mandates, such as breaking curfew hours.
In light of Tuesday’s swift arrests, Coconuts Manila reports that on Wednesday, Filipino observers commented on the perceived hypocrisy online.
“[The] law is only applicable for the poor and the marginalized. Our justice system cannot even lay a finger [on] the rich and powerful. They can blatantly lie and get away with ease,” wrote one critic.