The Philippine president-elect said on Tuesday he will pay bounties to police or military officials who capture suspected drug lords “dead or alive”, adding that there is enough reward money to leave “100 persons dead”.
Rodrigo Duterte said he will pay up to 3 million pesos ($64,000) for every drug lord that officials turn in, adding that the bounties would be financed by left-over campaign contributions.
The targets, he said, will include anti-narcotic agents who are secretly involved in the drug trade and jailed crime suspects who manage to continue their drug dealing. He said only crime suspects who put up a resistance would be killed.
“I’m not saying that you kill them but the order is dead or alive,” Duterte said in a televised news conference in Davao, the southern city where he has been mayor for many years.
Duterte, 71, whose six-year term starts June 30, won an overwhelming election victory on a promise to eradicate crime and corruption in the country within six months, a feat police officials say will be difficult to achieve. He told the news conference that the anti-drug crackdown is starting “now.”
A former prosecutor, Duterte said he stressed his seriousness in his anti-drug campaign to an official who will be appointed to a law enforcement agency.
“I said, ‘I’ll put you there on one condition, that if you have an agent who is messing around with drugs and it comes to a fight, I want you to kill him personally,'” Duterte said, adding he promised the official he would get the largest bounty if he does that.
He said military forces will be harnessed in the war against drugs. Army and police units will check on each other to punish personnel involved in drugs, and special forces could be deployed in jails to make sure inmates who continue to deal in drugs will “no longer be standing”, he said.
Duterte, who has stayed in Davao city since the May 9 election, introduced a number of his cabinet appointees at the news conference, including officials who have served under previous presidents, former college classmates, close political allies, and a handful of left-wing activists.
Duterte’s bold approach to crime and public threats to kill criminals have resonated among Filipinos long exasperated with crime, but have sparked alarm among human rights groups and pro-democracy advocates, who fear Duterte may resort to strongman tactics.
Addressing criminals, Duterte warned: “Do not destroy my country because I will kill you, do not destroy the youth of the land, our children, because I will kill you.”
Duterte also said many journalists have been killed in the country because they were involved in corrupt deals and turned against people who had paid them off. He did not cite any evidence or provide details, but said he knew one radio commentator who was killed in Davao city because he was “rotten.”
Asked to comment on unsolved killings of journalists in the country, he said many of those slain were paid to take sides on issues or had overly criticized people who couldn’t tolerate personal attacks.
“Just because you’re a journalist (doesn’t mean) you’re exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch,” Duterte said. “Your freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong with the guy.”
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines immediately condemned Duterte’s remarks.
“Mr Duterte’s crass pronouncement not only sullies the names and memories of all 176 of our colleagues who have been murdered since 1986,” the media group said. “He has also, in effect, declared open season to silence the media.”