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Philippines president threatens to quit the UN over criticism about killings of drug suspects

President Rodrigo Duterte went on a tirade after UN officials expressed concern about hundreds of extrajudicial killings that have occurred since he took office.
August 21, 2016, 4:55pm
Photo de Karl Norman Alonzo/EPA

The president of the Philippines has threatened to quit the United Nations in response to criticism from UN human rights officials over hundreds of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects that have occurred in the country since he took office.

President Rodrigo Duterte — nicknamed "The Punisher" for his iron-fisted approach to drug-related crime during his tenure as mayor of the city of Davao — said during a late-night news conference on Saturday in his hometown that the Philippines could leave the UN and form a rival organization with China and other countries.


"Maybe we'll just have to decide to separate from the United Nations," Duterte reportedly said. "If you're that rude, son of a bitch, we'll just leave you."

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The tirade was prompted by a statement released on Thursday by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that urged Duterte to end a wave of violence that began after he was elected in May. Duterte has said he would bestow medals on the killers of drug dealers, and he's also offered to award bounties to citizens who turn in drug suspects "dead or alive."

Methamphetamine use has surged in the Philippines in recent years, and organized crime groups are involved in the trade, but human rights advocates have warned that vigilantes are likely killing innocent people and petty addicts along with dealers.

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on summary executions, and Dainius Puras, the UN special rapporteur on the right to health, said in a joint statement that drug charges should be "judged in a court of law, not by gunmen on the streets."

Duterte seemed to speak directly to Callamard and Puras during his rant.

"I will prove to the world that you are a very stupid expert," he said, arguing that the number of drug dealers and users killed was less significant than the number of lives lost to drug-related crime.

He said the UN rapporteurs should have approached him directly rather than issuing a press release. "You do not just go out and give a shitting statement against a country," he said.

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Estimates for the number of drug-related extrajudicial killings under Duterte vary, but there's no disputing the fact that the body count is high. The UN said 850 "suspected criminals" have been killed since Duterte was elected on May 10, including 650 in the just the last month and a half. A "kill list" maintained by The Inquirer, a local newspaper, put the confirmed body count at 731 since May 10. Some reports put the tally at more than 900.

Duterte attacked the UN for "worrying about the bones of criminals piling up" while wars rage in Syria and Iraq.


"You now, United Nations, if you can say one bad thing about me, I can give you 10 [about you]," he said, according to a translation provided by Reuters. "I tell you, you are an inutile. Because if you are really true to your mandate, you could have stopped all these wars and killing."

Asked about the possible fallout from his comments, Duterte reportedly replied, "What is … repercussions? I don't give a shit to them."

Follow Keegan Hamilton on Twitter: @keegan_hamilton

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