The Davao City mayor says he will raise the drug and gang problem to the level of a national security threat and create a ‘ranger-trained’ division in the army
MANILA, Philippines – Rodrigo Duterte revealed more details of his most famous campaign promise: to suppress crime, drugs, and corruption in government in 3 to 6 months.
During an interview with media on Thursday, April 14, in Lipa City, he was asked what his first executive order as president will be.
“I will raise the level of the drug and gang threat into a national security issue,” he said.
“I need two divisions sa army, ranger-trained. I need 3,000 policemen. And ‘pag na-position ko sila (when I position them), I will ask the military and the police to go after the criminals and the druglords and my order is, if they would resist with violence, kill them,” he elaborated.
Inspects Davao City on a big bike, or incognito, in a taxi
In Davao, Duterte has patrolled streets at night on a Harley Davidson and at times driven a taxi to try to catch robbers preying on drivers.
He banned smoking and reportedly once forced a foreigner to chew a cigarette stick for violating the ordinance. Firecrackers, which kill and injure hundreds in the country during New Year’s revelries, are prohibited and a nighttime curfew for minors has eased juvenile delinquency.
Nicknamed “Duterte Harry,” after a Clint Eastwood character with little regard for rules, the Philippine city mayor casually threatens to shoot criminals, hang them using laundry line or drown them in Manila Bay. His expletives have sideswiped even the deeply revered pope.
Duterte, 70, built a political name with his iron-fist approach to fighting crime in southern Davao city, where he has served as mayor for 22 years. He has been credited for turning the vast port region of about 1.5 million people from a Marxist insurgency-wracked murder capital in the 1980s to one of a few Philippine cities with a reputation for law and order and economic vibrancy.
Pressed by a TV journalist in a recent debate to elaborate, Duterte said that suspected drug dealers end up in jail in Manila — and dead in his city.
“When I say ‘leave Davao,’ you leave Davao. If you do not do that, you’re dead. That’s the way the story will go, no drama,” he said to a loud applause.
Rival candidate Mar Roxas recalled that 7.5 billion pesos ($158 million) worth of drugs and a number of suspects were seized when he was interior secretary in charge of the national police for three years, but he stressed that the drug menace remains, including in Davao.
The U.S.-educated banker asked how Duterte can end the problem in such a short time and expressed fears of unwarranted killings. A heated exchange ensued.
“If you do not know how to kill people and you’re afraid to die, that’s the problem, you cannot be a president,” Duterte told Roxas.
In a Youtube video last year that has gone viral, Duterte enthralled a crowd of drivers by saying he would have criminals hanged with laundry line. If he becomes president, he said, “even God will cry.”
Manila Bay would teem with fat fish, the mayor told a TV network in another warning to criminals, adding “that’s where I will dump you.”
The death threats have morphed into much-awaited punch lines spread by word, online and in his campaign ads and rallies. Supporters mob him like a movie celebrity, jostling to take selfies with him.
“He’s like a rock star,” said Dante Jimenez, a leading supporter who founded an anti-crime volunteers’ organization in the 1990s, after his brother was killed by drug dealers. “Just seeing him as president would give us a feeling of assurance and security.”
When asked if he would condone extrajudicial killings, Duterte says he would not, but argues that police and soldiers could legally shoot suspects who put up a fight.
Empowering the police
A major component of his anti-crime approach is to empower the police.
“Ngayon, alam ng police ang trabaho nila (Now, the police know their job). All you have to do is provide the leadership at protektahan mo sila (and protect them),” he said.
Duterte has always asserted that a corruptible police force is the reason for the growing criminality and rising problem of illegal drugs in the country.
He would make them honest by giving them better salaries and protecting them from lawsuits filed by powerful criminals.
The threat of lawsuits is often what makes law enforcers hesitant to make arrests or conduct raids. Law suits could lead to internal police investigations during which policemen involved are temporarily suspended.
“The first a lawyer of the suspect would do, which is just natural actually, is to file a counter-charge and make it as a leverage. The problem is, the police have no legal assistance and then when they are suspended, there is nothing on the table and the pay is too low. That’s why I said, I’m going to double the salaries of the military and the police,” he said.
‘I will be exacting’
Along with these new perks, Duterte said he would impose higher standards on the police and military.
“But I would be exacting. Magiging exacting talaga ako sa performance and service. Ayoko ‘yang palaboy-laboy, ‘yung naririnig kong nanghihingi, eh doblado na suweldo nila,” he said.
(I will be exacting on their performance and service. I don’t want them just loitering around, asking for bribes when I’m already doubling their salaries.)
Two days ago, Duterte clarified that his promise is he would “suppress” crime and drugs, not stop them completely.
He has been criticized by administration standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas II for “fooling” the people by making an impossible promise.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, another rival of Duterte’s for the presidency, also accused him of resorting to extrajudicial killings to solve crime, a charge that Duterte denies.