Rodrigo Duterte

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to drug suspects: ‘Want to live longer? Stay in jail’

The Philippines president issues a new threat in his bloody anti-drug crackdown

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2018, 12:49am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2018, 2:28am

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte told drug suspects on Tuesday that if they wanted to live longer, they should get arrested and then stay in jail.

In the latest threat he has made in his bloody anti-drug crackdown, Duterte did not identify the targets of his warning in a televised speech but referred to people who grew rich through illegal drugs in Cebu province.

“You know if I were you guys in Cebu, stay in jail. You want to live longer? Stay in jail,” Duterte said. “Look for your own reason to be in jail. Do not go out of that facility. It would not be healthy for you.”

At least one high-profile drug suspect, though, was shot to death by police in his jail cell.

Police killed Rolando Espinosa, the mayor of the town of Albuera in central Leyte province, inside a jail in 2016 in what they said was a gun battle, but government investigators declared it a murder. Murder complaints against an officer and his men involved in the shoot-out were later downgraded to a lesser charge that allowed their release on bail and reinstatement onto the force.

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In a rambling speech to commemorate the anniversary of the Philippine navy’s founding that initially touched on terrorism and South China Sea territorial threats, Duterte veered to his anti-drug crackdown. He issued a veiled threat to policemen who were involved in drugs and acknowledged that the national force has been infiltrated by criminals.

“Some of them, sadly, are really into drugs … most of all the policemen because they are aplenty. I’m just warning them that if you are into it, you will be the first to go,” he said.

“It is no surprise that you are just also falling down one by one and the mayors and the village captains,” he said.

“And to all of those criminals out there, to all those rogue policemen and all creating hell for us, I have yet sufficient time to correct all of these things,” Duterte, a former mayor of Davao City, said. “You might not like the way how I correct things but I would just love to warn you that there is no turning back on this and I am there in the drug war in front.”

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More than 4,000 mostly poor drug suspects have been killed in clashes with police that officials say occurred because the suspects fought back. Human rights watchdogs have cited much higher death tolls, which the government disputes.

Duterte denies condoning extrajudicial killings and has lashed out at critics, including former US President Barack Obama, Western governments and UN human rights officials, who have raised alarm over the drug killings and threats to human rights.

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Duterte said on Friday that he wanted to reply to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein’s critical remarks in March but was advised “to shut up” at the time by his national security adviser, who told him that Zeid was royalty from Jordan, which was providing the Philippines with two assault helicopters.

Zeid had suggested that Duterte “submit himself to some sort of psychiatric evaluation” over his “unacceptable” remarks about some top human rights defenders.