Philippines: Firebrand Rodrigo Duterte Sworn In as President

Published: 01 July 2016


Rodrigo Duterte (PHOTO: Youtube Unlad Pinas)

By Joshua Futtersak

After a long and controversial campaign, Rodrigo Duterte, 71, was sworn in as president of the Philippines on Thursday. He received 38 percent of the vote. 

Duterte, who claims to have killed criminals although he has not provided evidence to support that claim, ran on the platform of ending crime within six months. He became known for his promises of violence throughout his campaign. 

For more than two decades, Duterte was the mayor of Davao City near the southern tip of the country, where he was given the nickname “The Punisher.”  He has allegedly backed the use of death squads to kill more than 1,000 suspected criminals. He promised to dump 100,000 bodies in Manila Bay if he was elected president. 

“If I have to kill you, I [will] kill you personally,” Duterte said in a 2015 interview with the Philippine media organization Rappler.

Duterte was sworn in at the Presidential Palace, where he gave an inaugural speech that toned down the rhetoric he had used in his campaign. 

“As a lawyer and a former prosecutor, I know the limits of the power and authority of the president. I know what is legal and what is not. My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising,” he said.

It was a far cry from his comments to Rappler, when he had said, “If Congress threatens me with impeachment, I will close down Congress.”

Still, Duterte reiterated the central message of his campaign: his promise to tackle corruption, illegal drugs and crime in Philippine society.  “The fight will be relentless, and it will be sustained,” he said.