In his latest controversial statement, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, known for his bloody anti-drug war that has killed thousands, threatened to throw corrupt officials out of a helicopter, saying he has done it before, to a kidnapper, and won’t hesitate to do it again.
“I will pick you up in a helicopter to Manila, and I will throw you out on the way,” Duterte said in Tagalog in front of a crowd in the Camarines Sur province Tuesday, according to GMA News. “I’ve done it before. Why would I not do it again?”
It was not immediately clear when or where the helicopter incident Duterte spoke of took place. The fiery-tempered former prosecutor said he once hurled a Chinese man suspected of rape and murder out of a helicopter.
The president was visiting areas of the province in the northern island of Luzon that were recently affected by the deadly Typhoon Nock-Ten, locally known as Nina. The storm, one of the strongest since Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippines’ Visayas region in 2014, killed at least six people and displaced hundreds of thousands, according to the Philippine Star.
Watch: Dutertet hreatens to throw corrupt officials out of a helicopter In his speech, Duterte announced that he was going to give up to 100 million pesos in financial assistance, in addition to 1 billion pesos that was set aside for calamities, the Philippine Star reported.
After that announcement, he went on to talk about his campaign against drugs and corruption.
The former mayor and prosecutor, who rose to power on a promise to uproot his country’s drug problem, has become famous for his brash talks and public outbursts.
He made headlines in April, when he was campaigning for the presidency, for making a joke about an Australian minister who was gang-raped and killed in 1989 in a Davao prison. At that time, Duterte was mayor of the southern city of Davao.
In August, he warned terrorists that he can be “10 times” more brutal than the Islamic State.
Most recently, Duterte admitted that he had personally killed people. He told a local radio station last month that he killed several criminals during his time as mayor. He specifically talked about killing three men who kidnapped and raped a Chinese girl in 1988, when he was only a few months into his term. He said that during the encounter, the men were holding carbines and didn’t raise their hands when they were told, so he shot them.
Vitaliano Aguirre II, Duterte’s justice secretary, cautioned that the president is prone to hyperbole and exaggeration, according to ABS-CBN News.
Duterte’s spokesman, Ernesto Abella, suggested the helicopter incident may not have actually happened.
“Let’s just say, ‘urban legend’,” Abella said, without elaborating.
Following Duterte’s claims, the UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, urged the Philippines’ judicial branch to launch a murder investigation.
“It should be unthinkable for any functioning judicial system not to launch investigative and judicial proceedings when someone has openly admitted being a killer,” Zeid said in a statement, adding, “The killings described by President Duterte also violate international law, including the right to life, freedom from violence and force, due process and fair trail, equal protection before the law, and innocence until proven guilty.”
Zeid also addressed Duterte’s anti-drug war, saying it has emboldened law enforcement to commit violence without accountability and is a “direct violation of all democratic safeguards that have been established to uphold justice and the rule of law.”
More than 6,000 have been killed since Duterte took office on June 30. Some were killed during encounters with police who were acting under the government’s orders, while others were killed by unknown vigilantes.
“Forget the laws on human rights,” Duterte declared in May at his final presidential campaign rally in Manila.
“If I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just as I did as mayor. You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because, I’d kill you.”
A Davao-based human rights group, the Coalition Against Summary Execution (CASE), has compiled figures showing that death squads in the city were responsible for at least 1,400 documented killings between 1998 and 2015.
In Davao, Duterte built a personality cult around his crackdown on crime. Part Mao, part Castro, part gun-toting Filipino warlord, the avowedly socialist mayor ruled his city as a lethal enemy of wrongdoers and a champion of the poor.
As president, Duterte is continuing his take-no-prisoners approach.
In Davao, he shamed civil servants on a weekly radio and television program. In Manila, he has publicly humiliated his most outspoken critic, a senator who led an investigation into extrajudicial killings and now faces criminal charges. And he recently demanded the immediate resignation of the heads of the country’s top energy regulatory body after reports of corruption at the agency.
Duterte became mayor in 1988, two years after the fall of President Ferdinand Marcos. The coastal city was at the centre of a communist insurgency that had erupted against the Marcos regime. New People’s Army rebels were using the city as a testing ground for urban guerrilla warfare; assassinations, bombings and disappearances were common. In a vicious war of attrition, the rebels targeted police, the military and local officials, while the authorities hit back at suspected communist sympathizers.
Some locals say when Duterte came to power, he proved to be more effective in the use of violence than the rebels or criminals. In its 2009 report, Human Rights Watch discerned a pattern in the vigilante-style killings during his rule.
“The assailants usually arrive in twos or threes on a motorcycle without a license plate,” the monitoring group wrote.
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“They wear baseball caps and buttoned shirts or jackets, apparently to conceal their weapons underneath. They shoot or, increasingly, stab their victim without warning…as quickly as they arrive, they ride off – but almost always before the police appear.”
Alongside the crime crackdown, Duterte built support with his man-of-the-people persona. He is perceived as frugal and plain-living. The home where he still lives when in Davao is an unassuming two-story property behind a green metal gate. He eats at unpretentious restaurants and is fond of the strong-smelling fruit durian.
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As mayor, he also slashed red tape. Applications for most permits and approvals must be decided within three days, local officials say. In the city tax office, fans rattle in the brightly lit public areas where many of the service windows are open through the lunch hour. The schedule is meant to minimise waiting time. Duterte says he hates seeing citizens queuing.
Rules and regulations were strictly enforced. Firecrackers, dangerous but very popular in the Philippines, are outlawed, a policy Duterte promises to enforce nationwide next year. Smoking in public is banned. Jaywalkers face $4 fines and orders to perform community service. Bars and restaurants must stop serving alcohol at 1 a.m. There is a 10 p.m. curfew on unaccompanied minors.
Despite the strictness of these restrictions, Duterte is no prude. Prostitution is tolerated with registered sex workers required to undergo regular health checks, according to a city official.
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The authorities check to ensure they are not working under coercion or threat. And the city holds a Christmas party for sex workers, the official said.
Enhanced security, Duterte said, was the only way to build a stable economy. When asked why people should vote for him, he pointed to his achievements in Davao as “exhibit A”.
“It’s not for the faint-hearted,” he told Reuters.
“If you are a president and you are afraid of criminals, or you are afraid to kill criminals, then you have no business being a president.”
Additional reporting by Reuters
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as:
Duterte warns officials: ‘I will throw you out of a helicopter’