Philippines President Duterte on Putin: 'I kill criminals, not children or elders'

Departing leader criticises killings of civilians during Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says his policy of killing drug suspects without due process does not compare with Russian President Vladimir Putin's military operations in Ukraine. AP
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has dismissed comparisons to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, saying: “I kill criminals, I don’t kill children and the elderly”.

Mr Duterte, who is near the end of his presidency, has called Mr Putin an idol and a friend, but on Tuesday criticised the killings of innocent civilians during Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

He blamed the three-month old war for the spike in global oil prices that has battered many countries, including the Philippines.

While not directly condemning the Russian president, Mr Duterte disagreed with Mr Putin’s labelling of the invasion as a “special military operation,” and said it was a full-scale war waged against a sovereign nation.

“Many say that Putin and I are both killers. I’ve long told you Filipinos that I really kill. But I kill criminals, I don’t kill children and the elderly,” Mr Duterte said in a televised weekly meeting with Cabinet officials. “We’re in two different worlds.”

Mr Duterte will step down on June 30, when his turbulent six-year term ends, making way for president Ferdinant Marcos Jr.

Mr Duterte has presided over violent anti-drugs operations in which more than 6,000 mostly petty suspects were killed without due process.

Human rights groups cited a much higher casualty figure and said innocent people, including children, were killed by a campaign that Mr Duterte promised to continue up until his last day in office.

The killings led to an investigation by the International Criminal Court into a possible crime against humanity.

Drug suspects threatened with death

Mr Duterte has said he expects to face more lawsuits arising from the drug campaign killings when his presidency ends.

He and his police officials have denied approving extrajudicial killings in the campaign against illegal drugs, but has openly threatened drug suspects with death and made an unsuccessful attempt to reimpose the death penalty in the largest Roman Catholic nation in Asia to deter drug dealers and other criminals.

When he took office in 2016, he reached out to Russia and China for trade and investment and to expand military co-operation while often criticising the security policies of Washington, Manila’s longtime treaty ally and former colonial power.

He visited Russia twice in 2017 and 2019 to meet Mr Putin, but cut short his first visit after ISIS-aligned extremists laid siege on the southern Philippine city of Marawi while he was away with his defence secretary and military chief of staff.

More than a week after Russian forces entered Ukraine, the Philippines voted in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution condemning the Russian invasion.

Addressing Mr Putin “as a friend”, Mr Duterte urged them to stop bombing and firing artillery rounds on residential areas and allow civilians to leave before launching a bombardment.

“You are in control of everything. Anyway, you really started the ruckus there so control your soldiers strictly. They are on a rampage,” Mr Duterte said.

Mr Duterte said he was concerned about the stability of his country’s oil supply as the war in Ukraine continues to rage and cause global instability.

“I’m on the way out and I don’t know how to solve the problem,” he said. “You have to solve the war between Ukraine and Russia before we can talk of even returning to normality.”

Updated: May 24, 2022, 8:52 AM