The president-elect of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, said Saturday he would reward any citizen with a gun if they aided his war on crime by killing drug dealers who resist arrest.
"Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun — you have my support," Duterte, 71, said to a large crowd during a nationally televised speech.
Duterte warned Filipinos of a massive illegal drug trade that he said involves even the Philippine police. He encouraged supporters to take the fight for a safe country upon themselves.
If a drug dealer refuses to be brought to a police station, or if they threaten a citizen with a gun or a knife, "you can kill him," Duterte told the crowd. "Shoot him and I'll give you a medal."
Duterte won the presidential election on May 9 based on a strong platform of ending corruption, crime, and the drug trade during his first six months in office.
During Duterte's long career as the mayor of the city of Davao – where the president-elect gave his speech Saturday – he was suspected of encouraging the creation of "Davao death squads," motorcycle gangs who killed suspected criminals before they were found guilty in court.
In his speech, Duterte also accused three Manila police generals of being involved in unspecified crimes, and threatened to publicly humiliate them if they did not resign. He also vowed to order a review of dismissed criminal cases involving policemen who, he implied, may have bribed their way back into active duty.
"They go back again crucifying the Filipino," he said to an excited crowd. "I won't agree to that."
The president-elect conceded that if he finds an officer became involved in criminal activity because "his wife had cancer" or "his mother died," he would be more lenient, but if the crime was committed because of "extreme greed," he would have them killed — or do it himself.
"If you're still into drugs, I will kill you. Don't take this as a joke. I'm not trying to make you laugh, son of a bitch, I will really kill you," Duterte concluded to loud cheers and applause.
Human rights organizations are worried about Duterte's encouragement of vigilante justice, while some Philippine police authorities have called his promises unrealistic.
Other police officers have already begun to take the call to harsher crime-fighting tactics more seriously. In the city of Las Pinas, police have arrested more than 100 minors for staying out past curfew, as well as men drinking in public and walking the streets shirtless, the Associated Press reported.
Duterte will start his six-year term as president on June 30.
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at email@example.com.
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