MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine president warned a Chinese drug suspect that he may die at Manila’s airport if he returns from abroad, in televised remarks Thursday that underscored the brazen rhetoric and methods he intends to use to fight the illegal drug trade.
As to how the man would die, President Rodrigo Duterte said, “never mind.” It was not clear if the man Duterte identified as Peter Lim has been charged with any crime.
The tough-talking Duterte advised Lim’s acquaintances to tell him, “Do not come back to the Philippines anymore. The moment he steps out of the plane, he will die.”
He said Lim was also known as “Jaguar,” and has been running a drug syndicate in the central Philippines. He provided no details or evidence.
Duterte also said two detained drug trafficking suspects would be killed if they attempt to escape.
“We’re really being insulted by the drug people,” he said in spontaneous remarks broadcast by the state-run TV network. “Since they are beyond redemption, they can stop and commit suicide because I will not allow these idiots to run their show, not during my watch.”
The 71-year-old former mayor of southern Davao city, where he built a reputation for tough anti-crime methods, won the May 9 election overwhelmingly on a bold promise to end criminality and corruption in the first three to six months of his presidency.
The pledge has won him support but also sparked alarm among human rights groups.
Duterte, a former prosecutor, has encouraged police and even ordinary citizens to shoot suspected drug dealers if they resist arrest and fight back, promising cash rewards if they turn in drug lords.
In recent weeks, dozens of suspected drug dealers have been killed in alleged gunbattles with police or have turned up dead under mysterious circumstances, some with cardboard signs warning the public not to imitate the slain suspects.
Duterte said there are many mayors, Chinese nationals and police involved in the drug trade and suggested he would disclose their identities soon.
He said he could not release the information to the media yet because he has asked for more supporting documents and intelligence reports from various government agencies.
Duterte again mentioned a retired police general, Marcelo Garbo, whom he accused of protecting drug traffickers but presented no evidence. Garbo has denied the allegation and said the president has been given incorrect information.
Garbo, who once was the second-highest official in the 160,000-strong national police force, was among five retired and active police officials Duterte identified this week as alleged protectors of drug syndicates. All have denied his allegations, one tearfully, saying their names have been unfairly tarnished.
They have expressed a readiness to be investigated.