New Philippine president encourages public to kill drug lords

In a Saturday evening televised speech, Rodrigo Duterte, president-elect for the Philippines, recently urged citizens to kill drug dealers in their neighborhood.

King Rodriguez/ Office of the City Mayor Davao/AP/File
Philippines president elect Rodrigo Duterte, seated right, answers questions during a news conference on May 26, 2016 at his hometown of Davao city, southern Philippines. Mr. Duterte has vowed to continue cracking down on crime when he is sworn in as president.

Rodrigo Duterte, president-elect for the Philippines, has long made clear that he intends to get tough on crime, even if it means killing drug dealers to do so. And now, he wants citizens' help.

"If they are there in your neighborhood, feel free to call us, the police or do it yourself if you have the gun," Mr. Duterte urged listeners during an announcement on Saturday, continuing "Shoot him and I'll give you a medal."

The threats did not stop there. Duterte also addressed corrupt police officers, stating "all police who have cases and are wanted now, if you are still involved in drugs, I will kill you," according to a CNN Philippines translation. "Don't take this as a joke. I'm not making you laugh."

Duterte was recently elected in a landslide victory that attracted international attention, particularly as his penchant for violent and offensive remarks drew comparisons to Donald Trump's presidential campaign in the United States. As mayor of Davao City, the third most populous in the Philippines and the nation's former murder capital, Duterte established a reputation for brash and upsetting remarks but seemingly effective anti-crime policies. His anti-crime and anti-corruption platform won roughly 39 percent of the vote, versus 22 percent for the closest contender. 

In 2002, Time magazine nicknamed the future president elect "the Punisher"; Human Rights Watch has referred to him as "the Death Squad Mayor" for his long-suspected affiliation with vigilante group the Davao Death Squad, which allegedly killed more than 1,000 criminals between 1998 and 2008. During his tenure as Davao mayor, however, the city became one of the safest in the nation. 

The region "remains troubled," Time wrote in their 2002 profile: "A Muslim separatist rebellion has raged there for decades. Al-Qaeda members have roamed the island. Foreign businessmen and missionaries must constantly be on guard there against kidnappers. But Davao, a sprawling port city on the southern coast, has emerged as the exception – an oasis of peace in the middle of the Philippines' lush center of chaos. Residents have a simple explanation: the mayor."

Now, Duterte is preparing to take over the office of the presidency as the multi-island nation in Southeast Asia becomes further embroiled in an international drug battle, one that has seen the Philippines develop into both a popular transit point as well as an end destination for large amounts of methamphetamines (known locally as Shabu).

In early 2015, Horacio Hernandez Herrera, a Mexican national high up the powerful Sinaloa cartel, was arrested in the Philippine Capital, Manila, as part of a major drug bust. His arrest came as local authorities claimed that Mexican cartels were in the process of expanding their operations through the island nation and even coordinating with Chinese drug syndicates.

It wasn't an isolated incident. In 2013, 185 pounds of crystal meth were seized in Lipa City, about 50 miles south of Manila. Along with the seizure, three people connected with the Sinaloa cartel were arrested. Then on May 31st of this year, authorities seized liquid meth in quantities of nearly $24.5 million. 

Previously, corrupt officials and authorities have made policing the developing drug trade difficult, with certain law enforcement officials and media members accusing politicians and police officers of accepting bribes and kickbacks from illegal traffickers.

Although Duterte's anti-crime focus helped win the election, human rights groups have publicly expressed concern over his rhetoric. The president elect himself, however, appears to be only ramping up the talk as he prepares to be sworn in to office on June 30. 

There will be a "bloody war" targeting the drug trade, Duterte has promised, as he prepares to launch a national wave of his anti-crime campaign. 

"I will pay, for a drug lord: five million (pesos)($107,000) if he is dead. If he is alive, only 4.999 million," he said on Saturday, according to Agence France-Presse. 

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