DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President-elect Rodrigo Duterte vowed Sunday, May 15, to reintroduce capital punishment and give security forces “shoot-to-kill” orders in a devastating war on crime.
In his first press conference since winning the May 9 elections in a landslide, the tough-talking mayor of Davao City warned his campaign threats to kill were not rhetoric.
“What I will do is urge Congress to restore (the) death penalty by hanging,” Duterte, 71, told a press conference in Davao.
He also said he would give security forces “shoot-to-kill” orders against organized criminals or those who violently resisted arrest.
“If you resist, show violent resistance, my order to police (will be) to shoot to kill. Shoot to kill for organized crime. You heard that? Shoot to kill for every organized crime,” he said.
He said military sharp shooters would be enlisted in his campaign to kill criminals.
Duterte also vowed to introduce a 2 am curfew on drinking in public places, and ban children from walking on the streets alone late at night.
If children were picked up on the streets, their parents would be arrested and thrown into jail for “abandonment”, Duterte said.
Fear the law
Duterte said he wanted capital punishment – which was abolished in 2006 under then-president Gloria Arroyo – to be reintroduced for a wide range of crimes, particularly drugs, but also rape, murder and robbery.
He added he preferred death by hanging to a firing squad because he did not want to waste bullets, and because he believed snapping the spine with a noose was more humane.
The centerpiece of Duterte’s stunningly successful election campaign strategy was a pledge to end crime within 3 to 6 months of being elected.
Duterte vowed during the campaign to kill tens of thousands criminals, outraging his critics but hypnotizing tens of millions of Filipinos fed up with rampant crime and graft.
On one occasion he said 100,000 people would die, and so many bodies would be dumped in Manila Bay that the fish would grow fat from feeding on them.
He complained on Sunday that people no longer feared the law, and he would change that.
“We have a society now where obedience to the law is really a choice, an option only,” he said.
“Do not destroy my country because I will kill you. I will kill you. No middle ground. As long as the requirements of the law are there, if you try to evade arrest, refuse arrest… and you put up a good fight or resist violently, I will say: ‘Kill them’.”
Duterte is due to be sworn into office on June 30 for a 6-year term.
The current president, Benigno Aquino III, warned repeatedly during the campaign that Duterte was a dictator in the making and would bring terror to the nation.
However his preferred successor, Mar Roxas, an establishment politician who promised to continue Aquino’s slow but steady macroeconomic reforms, ended in a distant second place.
Death squad fears
Duterte has been accused of running vigilant death squads during his more than two decades as mayor of Davao, a city of about two million people that he says he has turned into one of the nations safest.
Rights groups say the squads – made up of police, hired assassins and ex-communist rebels – have killed more than 1,000 people.
They say children and petty criminals were among the victims.
Duterte boasted on one occasion during the campaign of being behind the squads, saying they killed 1,700 people. But other times he denied any involvement.
Duterte also made international headlines for constant use of vulgar language, including on one occasion branding the pope a “son of a whore”.
After scorching criticism in the mainly Catholic nation, Duterte sent a letter of apology to Pope Francis.
He also said he would visit the Vatican to make a personal apology, but on Sunday reneged on that pledge.
“No more. That’s enough,” Duterte said when asked about the planned trip, pointing out he had already sent the letter.
He said the trip “could be an exercise in duplicity”, as he complained that some Church leaders in the Philippines indicated he may not have been forgiven.
Duterte was raised a Catholic.
But among his closest advisers is Apollo Quiboloy, leader of the Davao-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ religious group who calls himself “the Appointed Son of God”. – Ayee Macaraig, AFP / Rappler.com