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New President of the Philippines Says Citizens Who Kill Drug Dealers Will Get Medals

Rodrigo Duterte, the tough-talking president-elect of the Philippines, campaigned on the single issue of crushing crime and the drug trade in the country.
Photo par King Rodriguez/Davao City Mayor/EPA

The tough-talking president-elect of the Philippines has an aggressive new strategy to fight crime: Citizens who shoot and kill drug dealers will be given medals.

Rodrigo Duterte celebrated his recent presidential victory in the southern city of Davao on Saturday night, and, in a nationally televised speech, he warned about the dangers of the booming illegal drug trade and told regular Filipinos what they can do to help.


"Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun, you have my support," Duterte said.

Crystal meth, known locally as "shabu," is the primary drug consumed and trafficked within the Philippines and is present in more than 90 percent of the capital's neighborhoods. A VICE News investigation last December found that the drug's grip on Manila has reached a crisis point, exacerbated by soaring unemployment, a crumbling political system, and rampant corruption.

Duterte, the former mayor of Davao City, campaigned on the single issue of crushing crime in the Philippines, and promised to bring Davao-style order to the rest of the country. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Duterte relied on death squads in Davao that committed extrajudicial killings of at least 1,000 suspected criminals and drug dealers. Human rights groups have warned that 71-year-old politician could implement such systems on a larger scale as president. He has admitted to endorsing death squads, but denies ordering them.

Related: The Philippines' Death Squad-Loving New President Has Some Surprisingly Progressive Plans

In the same speech, according to the Associated Press, Duterte made pointed remarks about alleged corruption within law enforcement. He said that the country's police officers tend to get involved in crime because of "extreme need or extreme greed," and demanded that three police generals from Manila, the country's capital, resign for their involvement in unspecified crimes. Duterte threatened to publicly humiliate the officials if they refused to quit.


He also said he would order a review of dismissed criminal cases against active law enforcement officers because he suspects that some might have bribed their way back onto the force after getting busted for criminal involvement or drugs.

"If you're still into drugs, I will kill you," Duterte said. "Don't take this as a joke. I'm not trying to make you laugh, son of a bitch. I will really kill you."

In addition to his bellicose promises to fight crime, Duterte also warned mining companies to "shape up," and said his incoming government might rewrite laws to limit environmental degradation as a result of mining. "I have a big problem with mining companies," he said. "They are destroying the soil of our country."

Duterte was officially declared the winner of the May 9 presidential election in the Philippines during a joint session of Congress on Monday. He will officially begin his six-year presidential term on June 30, succeeding current President Benigno Aquino, who will step down next month after six years in office.

Follow Tess Owen on Twitter: @misstessowen

Watch the VICE News documentary

Crystal Meth and Cartels in the Philippines: The Shabu Trap