Duterte warms up for “bloody presidency” – if elected

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Duterte - if I were presidentIn the first public debate organised among presidential candidates in the Philippines in 24 years, all five candidates on February 21 outlined their programmes at a two-hour debate  – and policy talk differed widely.

The contenders were Senator Grace Poe, the adopted daughter of a popular movie couple, Vice President Jejomar Binay, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who has been endorsed by Aquino, Rodrigo Duterte, Davao City mayor and known for his tough anti-crime campaign, as well as Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Lawyer Apolonia Comia-Soguilon, who was originally set to run for the Workers’ and Farmers’ Party, was rejected by the election commission on February 18 for formal reasons.

Probably most notably, Duterte tried to build upon his “Dirty Harry” image by saying that if he became president it would become a “bloody presidency” – at least for criminals.

“If I become president, it would be bloody,” he said, adding that he would “take down criminals, drug traffickers and corrupt officials in six months” if elected.

Known for his rough anti-crime campaign in southern Davao City, he acknowledged he has killed an unspecified number of criminals himself but did not provide details. He has said in the past that he would reimpose the death penalty for heinous crimes but assured he would not resort to extrajudicial killings.

Duterte has been criticised in the past by human rights groups and by Amnesty International for indeed tolerating extrajudicial killings of alleged criminals allegedly executed by vigilant death squads in Davao City. Human Rights Watch reported that in 2002, Duterte appeared on local television and radio and announced the names of “criminals”, some of whom were later executed. “Summary execution of criminals remains the most effective way to crush kidnapping and illegal drugs,” he commented at that time.

He only committed having had “links” to the death squads in a TV interview in May 25, 2015, taking the opportunity to warn that he would kill “up to 100,000 criminals” if he was elected president.

Duterte has been slammed for his “the mentality of lawlessness and vigilantism,” with opponents arguing that such a culture enables those in power, including officials, private warlords and businessmen to take retribution against those they felt had acted against their interests, including journalists and human rights activists.

As a contrast, former interior secretary Mar Roxas at the debate pledged to continue the battle against poverty and corruption of incumbent president Benigno Aquino III, who backs his candidacy. With the improving economy, more than two million Filipinos have risen from poverty under Aquino, he said, promising to expand projects to continue poverty reduction.

Under President Aquino, the economy has been growing indeed steadily. His predecessor has been detained on an elections fraud charge and three senators were separately detained on corruption charges under Aquino’s anti-graft fight. But daunting challenges remain, most of all the persistent poverty prevalent among a fourth of the Philippines’ 100 million population.

Vice President Jejomar Binay said that if elected, he would apply to the entire Philippines what he has done as a mayor to Makati city, the country’s main business and financial district. He repeated his denial of allegations of massive corruption, which came under a Senate committee investigation for months.

Grace Poe highlighted the bills she has pushed in her role as Senator, including a larger budget to help poor farmers and a freedom of information bill that failed to pass, while Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said she would crack down on corruption “like she has done in her long government career” as she sees it as one of the main causes of the Philippines remaining “one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia” despite its ample resources.

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

In the first public debate organised among presidential candidates in the Philippines in 24 years, all five candidates on February 21 outlined their programmes at a two-hour debate  – and policy talk differed widely.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Duterte - if I were presidentIn the first public debate organised among presidential candidates in the Philippines in 24 years, all five candidates on February 21 outlined their programmes at a two-hour debate  – and policy talk differed widely.

The contenders were Senator Grace Poe, the adopted daughter of a popular movie couple, Vice President Jejomar Binay, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who has been endorsed by Aquino, Rodrigo Duterte, Davao City mayor and known for his tough anti-crime campaign, as well as Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Lawyer Apolonia Comia-Soguilon, who was originally set to run for the Workers’ and Farmers’ Party, was rejected by the election commission on February 18 for formal reasons.

Probably most notably, Duterte tried to build upon his “Dirty Harry” image by saying that if he became president it would become a “bloody presidency” – at least for criminals.

“If I become president, it would be bloody,” he said, adding that he would “take down criminals, drug traffickers and corrupt officials in six months” if elected.

Known for his rough anti-crime campaign in southern Davao City, he acknowledged he has killed an unspecified number of criminals himself but did not provide details. He has said in the past that he would reimpose the death penalty for heinous crimes but assured he would not resort to extrajudicial killings.

Duterte has been criticised in the past by human rights groups and by Amnesty International for indeed tolerating extrajudicial killings of alleged criminals allegedly executed by vigilant death squads in Davao City. Human Rights Watch reported that in 2002, Duterte appeared on local television and radio and announced the names of “criminals”, some of whom were later executed. “Summary execution of criminals remains the most effective way to crush kidnapping and illegal drugs,” he commented at that time.

He only committed having had “links” to the death squads in a TV interview in May 25, 2015, taking the opportunity to warn that he would kill “up to 100,000 criminals” if he was elected president.

Duterte has been slammed for his “the mentality of lawlessness and vigilantism,” with opponents arguing that such a culture enables those in power, including officials, private warlords and businessmen to take retribution against those they felt had acted against their interests, including journalists and human rights activists.

As a contrast, former interior secretary Mar Roxas at the debate pledged to continue the battle against poverty and corruption of incumbent president Benigno Aquino III, who backs his candidacy. With the improving economy, more than two million Filipinos have risen from poverty under Aquino, he said, promising to expand projects to continue poverty reduction.

Under President Aquino, the economy has been growing indeed steadily. His predecessor has been detained on an elections fraud charge and three senators were separately detained on corruption charges under Aquino’s anti-graft fight. But daunting challenges remain, most of all the persistent poverty prevalent among a fourth of the Philippines’ 100 million population.

Vice President Jejomar Binay said that if elected, he would apply to the entire Philippines what he has done as a mayor to Makati city, the country’s main business and financial district. He repeated his denial of allegations of massive corruption, which came under a Senate committee investigation for months.

Grace Poe highlighted the bills she has pushed in her role as Senator, including a larger budget to help poor farmers and a freedom of information bill that failed to pass, while Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said she would crack down on corruption “like she has done in her long government career” as she sees it as one of the main causes of the Philippines remaining “one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia” despite its ample resources.

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