Thursday, 30 June 2016

'Death squad' Duterte becomes Philippine President and he has promised a 'bloody' term

Scared Philippine drug dealers, addicts surrender
By Raul Dancel, Philippines Correspondent In Manila, The Straits Times, 30 Jun 2016

Thousands of drug dealers and addicts across the Philippines are surrendering to police, as a mayor known for backing extrajudicial killings of criminals takes office today as the nation's 16th president.

In Bonuan Gueset, a coastal district in Dagupan city, 200km north of the capital Manila, over 500 confessed drug addicts turned themselves over to their village chief early this week and signed notes pledging to get themselves rehabilitated.

They fear for their lives, Mr Ricardo Mejia, the village chief, told The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

They have a good reason to be afraid: Mr Rodrigo Duterte.

Mr Duterte will be inaugurated today for a six-year term as Philippine President, ushering in a new government that has promised a brutal war on crime.

Since Mr Duterte swept to victory in the May 9 elections, police and unnamed vigilantes have killed at least 54 suspected drug lords and dealers.

That works out to one killed a day, an escalation from the first four months of the year when the rate was about two a week, according to a Reuters report last week.

Fearful that they may also end up in body bags, some 300 peddlers and users of narcotics in an eastern suburb of metropolitan Manila and over 4,000 more in the vast southern region of Mindanao were reported to have surrendered to police this week.

Mr Duterte had warned addicts: "If I can't convince you to stop, I'll have you killed…"

The 71-year-old mayor of the southern city of Davao carved a menacing reputation as a tough-talking, gun-toting maverick who does not shy away from using means outside the law when dealing with criminals.

He has been accused of unleashing "death squads" in a bruising, two-decade war on crime in Davao, now regarded as one of the nation's safest cities. He has said his term would be "bloody".

Even before he was elected, he had already promised to send the bodies of tens of thousands of criminals to the bottom of Manila Bay.

In recent weeks, he has cheered on security forces with offers of a 3 million peso (S$86,000) bounty and a medal as the body count rose.

"I believe in retribution. Why? You should pay. When you kill someone, rape, you should die," he said on Monday.

Over 600 guests have been invited to Mr Duterte's inauguration at noon today at Malacanang Palace, the seat of political power here.

In a break with tradition, he has chosen not to have Vice-President-elect Leni Robredo at his inauguration. Mr Duterte has kept his distance from the 52-year-old widow out of a sense of gratitude towards his ally, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Ms Robredo, a close ally of outgoing President Benigno Aquino, beat Mr Marcos, 58, by a slim margin in the elections.

Mr Duterte had said he refused to give Ms Robredo a Cabinet post as he did not want to "hurt (Mr Marcos') feelings".

Philippines' new President Duterte pledges war on crime as he is sworn in
New Philippine President opts for low-key and frugal inauguration ceremonies
By Raul Dancel, Philippines Correspondent In Manila, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2016

Populist firebrand Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in yesterday as the Philippines' 16th president, with a promise to wage a "relentless" and "sustained" war on crime and corruption.

"The fight will be relentless, and it will be sustained," the 71-year-old anti-crime maverick said in a 16-minute speech shortly after he took his oath.

"The ride will be rough, but come and join me just the same. Together, shoulder to shoulder, let us take the first wobbly steps in this quest," he added.

More than 600 guests representing a motley mix of political groups that have coalesced around Mr Duterte - communists, business magnates, and loyalists of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos - were at the inauguration held at Malacanang Palace in Manila.

The ceremonies were low-key and frugal, in keeping with Mr Duterte's loathing for ostentation.

Past presidents had opted to hold their inauguration in sprawling public parks to draw hundreds of thousands of onlookers, and host lavish dinners for important guests.

For his guests, Mr Duterte had asked for homely dishes that included coconut pith spring rolls, white cheese made from unskimmed carabao milk, mung bean soup, spinach, and durian tartlet.

The new president, who prefers button-down, short-sleeved shirts, never wears socks, and vows he will not be seen with a tie, conceded to wearing a barong - an embroidered Filipino formal wear - and light-coloured pants. But he had on what looked like slip-on loafers.

Departing from his brash, usually profanity-laced, mien, Mr Duterte again hammered on his central themes in his inaugural speech: ending crime and ridding the bureaucracy of graft.

He said that "corruption, both in the high and low echelons of government, criminality in the streets and rampant sale of illegal drugs" are "the problems that bedevil our country today which need to be addressed with urgency".

He had promised to end crime in six months, even if it meant employing extrajudicial means.

Mr Duterte carved a reputation as a tough-talking, gun-toting mayor who would not baulk at setting loose "death squads" on criminal gangs, earning him the monicker "Punisher". Amid accusations that his "dirty" tactics had led to the extrajudicial killings of at least 1,000 suspected criminals, some of them minors, Mr Duterte succeeded in transforming his home city of Davao from a lawless enclave in the war-torn southern region of Mindanao into one of the nation's safest.

In his speech yesterday, Mr Duterte said his methods may be "unorthodox" and even "verge on the illegal", but he insisted he had witnessed how crime and illegal drugs had ruined families and decimated hard-earned wealth. "Look at it from that perspective, and tell me that I am wrong," he said.

Mr Duterte then asked lawmakers and human rights campaigners "to allow us a level of governance consistent with our mandate".

"You mind your work, and I will mind mine," he said.

In another break with tradition, Mr Duterte was inaugurated separately from his Vice-President, the 52-year-old widow Leni Robredo. She took her oath hours earlier, at her new office 10km north of Malacanang.

Mr Duterte had been keeping his distance from Ms Robredo, who belongs to a different party, out of a sense of gratitude to his ally, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who lost to her by a slim margin.

At her inauguration, Ms Robredo extended a conciliatory note to Mr Duterte, saying: "We should build on our unity, and look for strength in our differences."

One tradition Mr Duterte stuck to was giving his predecessor Benigno Aquino departure honours. Mr Aquino was later driven out of Malacanang, an ordinary citizen again.

Duterte's 'to-do' list
By Raul Dancel, The Straits Times, 30 Jun 2016

President Rodrigo Duterte swept to victory with bold promises that caught on with over 16 million voters. Among his promises:


He wants to reinstate capital punishment as a key plank to his anti-crime crusade.


He is seeking to amend the Constitution to shift to a federal form of government which he believes will spread resources away from what he has called "Imperial Manila".


He has asked for emergency powers to fix metropolitan Manila's horrendous traffic jams. He plans to buy more trains and build more railways.


He wants just three children per family to check population growth and reduce poverty, a stand which is at odds with the Catholic church that frowns on contraception and abortion.


He is pursuing direct talks with Beijing to settle rows over the South China Sea.


A ban on smoking and liquor, and a 10pm curfew for minors.

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