Philippines’ Duterte urges communist rebels to kill drug traffickers

It comes a day after the newly inaugurated president called on ordinary Filipinos to kill drug addicts.

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte is welcomed by an arrival honours at the country's national police headquarters in suburban Quezon city, Manila, on July 1, 2016. Aaron Favila/AP Photo
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MANILA // Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte on Friday urged communist rebels to start killing drug traffickers, a day after pledging to follow the rule of law at his swearing in.

“Drugs have reached the hinterlands ... what if you use your kangaroo courts to kill them to speed up the solution to our problem,” Mr Duterte said in a speech before the military’s top brass in Manila.

The communists’ armed wing, the 4,000-strong New People’s Army, is known for assassinating civilians deemed to have committed so-called crimes against the people.

However its courts and summary executions are illegal.

A lawyer and former city prosecutor, Mr Duterte won May’s election in a landslide after a campaign dominated by his pledge to end crime within six months. He promised to unleash security forces with shoot-to-kill orders against criminals and warned that thousands would die.

But in his inauguration speech on Thursday he insisted that his adherence to the rule of law was “uncompromising”, apparently seeking to assuage concerns from human rights groups.

Hours later he called on ordinary Filipinos to kill drug addicts.

“If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself,” he told a crowd of about 500 people in a Manila slum.

Mr Duterte also vowed to kill drug traffickers himself, using foul language he had promised to tone down as president.

“I warn you, don’t go into that, even if you’re a policeman, because I will really kill you,” he said.

Mr Duterte, 71, a former mayor of the southern city of Davao, has alternately denied and confirmed running death squads there that summarily executed suspected criminals.

Human rights groups say the squads – made up of local police, former communist rebels and hired assassins – have killed more than 1,000 people.

Before dawn on Friday a bullet-riddled body was found in a Manila slum with a sign on it that read: “I am a Chinese drug lord.”

The murder bore all the hallmarks of an extrajudicial killing, which would make it the first of Mr Duterte’s presidency.

Manila police district deputy director for operations Marcelino Pedroso said the death was being considered a summary execution because the victim was apparently killed because of involvement in drugs. He said there were no suspects.

The police have already killed dozens of alleged or suspected drug traffickers in the time between Mr Duterte’s May 9 election victory and Thursday’s inauguration.

The new national police chief, Ronald Dela Rosa, on Friday accused unnamed officers of trafficking drugs they had confiscated in anti-narcotics raids, and ordered them to turn themselves in by Sunday.

“I’m giving you 48 hours to voluntarily surrender to me,” he said.

“This has to stop right now or I will stop you from enjoying your evil life.”

Meanwhile at least 300 officers in several Manila police precincts underwent surprise urine tests on Friday to check if they had been using illegal drugs. The results were not immediately known.

* Agence France-Presse