Philippines’ Duterte berates policemen, delivers ultimatum

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte angrily dressed down more than 200 police officers on national television, calling them 'rotten to the core.'

Romeo Ranoco/Reuters
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while delivering a speech during the 115th founding anniversary of the Bureau of Customs in metro Manila, Philippines on Wednesday.

In a televised address, President Duterte of the Philippines berated 228 police officers on Tuesday for a catalog of criminal and professional complaints, including corruption and drug use and distribution.

As a part of his latest tirade, the president delivered the group of officers from the National Police Force an ultimatum: either resign or prepare to be sent to Basilan Island, a Philippine province known as a stronghold of an Islamic terror group.

I need policemen in the south. There is a lack of police officers in Basilan; that is why the police stations there are often under attack,” Duterte told the officers in his expletive-riddled oration, according to the Associated Press. “That is why all of you who are here, you are going to be part of Task Force South,” he continued. “If you don’t want to go there, go to your superior officer and tell them that you’re going to resign.”

Known for being home to the Islamist terror organization Abu Sayyaf, Basilan has gained notoriety for a series of attacks carried out in 2016 against both the army and the local police force.

In late January, President Duterte suspended the National Police from taking part in the widespread drugs crackdown that has polarized opinions about the president both in the Philippines and internationally. The temporary suspension was, in part, a response to the kidnapping and murder last year of a South Korean businessman, whom officers killed at police headquarters. They later attempted to extort ransom money from his family under the pretense that he was still alive. 

Duterte's antidrug policy, on which he had campaigned, was elected, and had previously implemented in his home Davao, has seen a massive increase in the killings of individuals with ties to the illegal drug industry, including alleged drug users as well as alleged dealers.

In the first two months following the anti-drug campaign’s launch, more than 2,400 people were executed. Duterte himself has encouraged civilians to kill drug dealers, saying that he would award them medals.

According to The New York Times, those numbers have soared to 3,600 since June, and could include thousands more that are presently unknown.

As critics of his approach began to speak up, Duterte, known for his bombastic style, took to confronting them in televised addresses. He has often insulted other heads of state, and in one instance referred to Pope Francis by a derogatory term.

In his most recent address, Duterte told the 228 members of the police force that he would give them 15 days to prepare for their new assignment to Basilan Island, an assignment which would see them deployed for at least two years. 

“If you survive, come back here,” Duterte said, according to the Associated Press. “If you die there, I’ll tell the police not to spend to bring you here and just bury you there.”

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