Home » international news » He puts bounties on people's heads. And he is Philippines' new President

He puts bounties on people's heads. And he is Philippines' new President

Aleesha Matharu | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:50 IST
The despot
  • Rodrigo Duterte is Philippines\' President-elect, and will take over on 30 June
  • He has no qualms in being called a dictator - in fact, he welcomes the tag
His policies
  • Duterte has been accused of being a mass murderer, and has promised a Presidential pardon for himself
  • He is actively encouraging people to gun down criminals and even journalists
More in the story
  • Why the public of the Philippines has lapped up his bloodlust
  • Some of his classiest quotes - like calling the Pope \'son of a whore\'

The world is no stranger to despots and governments helmed by strong men. In the present day, you can still list more than just a few countries that are ruled by relatively crazy men with iron fists - Turkey, Russia, North Korea and Venezuela to name just a few.

And let's not forget that Donald Trump is now on the brink of running for the United States Presidency.

But the President-elect of the Philippines might just trump them all, if you'll forgive the pun.

Rodrigo Duterte is more than just a little rough around the edges - he's an extreme advocate of vigilante justice. And, starting on 30 June, he'll be the President for six whole years.

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And he's got a bone to pick with everyone, not just criminals like rapists and murderers. Petty criminals, journalists, corrupt policemen, drug dealers and anyone who steps out of bounds of the law is about to become fair game in the Philippines.

Wild Wild West

It's almost like a return to the Wild Wild West - there are bounties on the offer. Earlier this month, Duterte put a bounty of up to three million Philippine pesos ($65,000) on drug lords - which he upped to five million pesos ($108,000) in his most recent speech.

"I'm not saying that you kill them, but the order is 'dead or alive'," Duterte said.

He's also encouraging citizens with guns to shoot and kill drug dealers who resist arrest and fight back in their neighbourhoods.

"Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun - you have my support," the 71-year-old said in a recent televised speech, warning of an extensive illegal drug trade that involves the country's police.

"[To] all police who have cases and are wanted now, if you are still involved in drugs, I will kill you," he said. "Don't take this as a joke. I'm not making you laugh. Son of a bitch, I will kill you."

And if a drug dealer resists arrest or refuses to be brought to a police station, and threatens a citizen with a gun or a knife, "you can kill him", Duterte said to great applause. "Shoot him and I'll give you a medal."

'The Punisher'

If that doesn't sound bonkers enough, Duterte, who's been nicknamed 'the Punisher' by Time magazine thanks to his brand of vigilante justice, has vowed that he'll kill 100,000 criminals and dump them in Manila Bay at one point in his campaign.

Oh, and he promised to do this during his first six months in office. Be warned, his pledge to kill five criminals every week is likely not an idle promise. Extrajudicial death squads have reportedly killed more than a thousand people during his time as mayor of Davao City.

Pretty damn crazy, right? Let the record show - Rodrigo Duterte murders criminals.

He's never been tied to any of the murders, but when asked about rumours that he had personally executed 700 criminals, he replied that the number was closer to 1,700.

So, no trial. No reform. If you step outside the law, no one will blink if you get murdered in the street. Or whenever the mob turns its attention to you.

Because when have mobs ever killed innocent people?

Blood on his hands

Duterte's outlandish promises resonated with a public fed up with crime and corruption. That's why despite each crazy announcement, his poll numbers kept rising.

Would he become a dictator? Sure, he said, why not?

"I will be strict. I will be a dictator, no doubt it. But only against forces of evil - criminality, drugs and corruption in government," Duterte said, before vowing to step down in six months if he failed to fulfil his promise to stamp out corruption.

He also reportedly said he would issue Presidential pardons for himself and all who helped with the 'civic clean up' or massacres, whichever term you prefer.

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Here's an actual quote from the new President of the Philippines regarding the 1989 rape and murder of a Christian missionary that happened in Davao City, where he served as mayor for years before ascending to the top job.

"I was angry she was raped, yes, that was one thing. But she was so beautiful, I think the mayor should have been first. What a waste," he had said.

If that's not enough to make you sit up and take notice, here's what he said in his last campaign speech before the election: "Forget the laws of human rights."

Journalists are legitimate targets

"Just because you're a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination, if you're a son of a bitch," Duterte said in one speech, in a country that is already has the distinction of being the second-deadliest country for journalists.

He has insisted journalists are "not exempted from execution", and says that most of the scores of reporters killed with impunity in the Philippines in recent years were themselves corrupt.

In reply, The Manila Times has written a must-read tongue-in-cheek piece thanking Duterte for his efforts to rid the country of corrupt journalists, so that the "good ones should then be spared the stigma of corruption and be able to cleanse the profession, trade and industry of journalism in our country".None of this has gone down well with human rights groups.

"A message of this nature amounts to incitement to violence and killing, in a nation already ranked as the second-deadliest country for journalists," Cristof Heyns, the UN's special rapporteur on summary executions, told reporters in Geneva, according to a UN press release.

"These comments are irresponsible in the extreme, and unbecoming of any leader, let alone someone who is to assume the position of the leader of a country that calls itself democratic."

David Kaye, the special rapporteur on freedom of expression, says Duterte's comments could "be understood as a permissive signal to potential killers that the murder of journalists is acceptable in certain circumstances and would not be punished".

"This position is even more disturbing when one considers that Philippines is still struggling to ensure accountability in notorious cases of violence against journalists, such as the Maguindanao massacre," Kaye adds, referring to the still unsolved 2009 mass murder when a group of 57 people, many of them journalists, were killed en route to covering the registration of an Opposition candidate in an election.

Duterte recently even threatened to shun the media throughout the duration of his six-year term after Reporters Without Borders urged journalists covering Duterte to stay away from his press conferences as a sign of protest "until the media community gets a public apology".

Classy quotes

1. "Pardon given to Rodrigo Duterte for the crime of multiple murder, signed Rodrigo Duterte."

2. "If I become President, I advise you people to put up several funeral parlour businesses. They will be packed. I'll supply the dead bodies."

3. "You son of a whore Pope Francis. Why don't you just go home?"

4. "Many are asking what my credentials are and what I can do for the Philippines. They are telling me that they heard I am a womaniser. That is true. That is very true."

5. "A leader must be a terror to the few who are evil, in order to protect the lives and well-being of the many who are good."

Catching Oliver's eye

Duterte has also attracted some razor-sharp love from John Oliver, the host of the popular American show Last Week Tonight.

"Duterte routinely kisses his female supporters, once called the pope a 'son of a bitch', all of which has earned him a reputation of the 'Trump of the East' - a title previously held by a burnt wonton covered in scarecrow pubes," Oliver quipped.

See his four-minute segment here:

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 9 June 2016, 1:07 IST
Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

Born in Bihar, raised in Delhi and schooled in Dehradun, Aleesha writes on a range of subjects and worked at The Indian Express before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not at work you can find her glued to the TV, trying to clear a backlog of shows, or reading her Kindle. Raised on a diet of rock 'n' roll, she's hit occasionally by wanderlust. After an eight-year stint at Welham Girls' School, Delhi University turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion before she finally trudged her way to J-school and got the best all-round student award. Now she takes each day as it comes, but isn't an eternal optimist.