Not long after he was sworn in as the Philippines' 16th president at the presidential palace in Manila on Thursday, Rodrigo Duterte reverted to his tough-talking rhetoric, promising a "relentless" fight against crime — and urging the population to kill not only drug traffickers, but also addicts.
"These sons of whores are destroying our children," Duterte told the audience of about 500 during a visit to a Manila slum. "If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful."
Duterte's harsh words are in keeping with previous speeches he has made about the booming illegal drug trade. In his nationally televised presidential victory speech last month, he said citizens who shoot and kill drug dealers will be given medals.
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. As mayor, he was been frequently criticized by rights groups who condemned his alleged use of extrajudicial killings.
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.
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.
Watch VICE News' Crystal Meth and Cartels in the Philippines: The Shabu Trap:
Reuters reports that, in the weeks since Duterte's election victory, there has been a jump in the number of suspected drug dealers shot dead by police and anonymous vigilantes. Critics of Duterte say this is a sign that he has already unleashed his violent strategy to combat drugs.
Duterte came to victory by riding a wave of discontent with the Philippines' political elite. His appeal has elicited comparisons with US presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, and the rise of other brash populists around the world.
"I see the erosion of the people's trust in our country's leaders, the erosion of faith in our judicial system, the erosion of confidence in the capacity of our public servants to make the people's lives better, safer and healthier," Duterte said on Thursday.