Friday 23 March 2018

Philippines' president-elect vows to reimpose death penalty

Rodrigo Duterte said he would seek to reimpose the death penalty (AP)
Rodrigo Duterte said he would seek to reimpose the death penalty (AP)

Philippines' President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has said he aims to bring back death by hanging.

Mr Duterte said he will ask his country's congress to reimpose the death penalty, which has been suspended since 2006 following opposition from the Roman Catholic church.

The controversial presumptive president, who was making his first policy pronouncements since winning last week's election based on an unofficial count, said that capital punishment by hanging should be imposed for crimes such as murder, robbery and rape.

Mr Duterte went on to say that those convicted of more than one crime would be hanged twice.

"After the first hanging, there will be another ceremony for the second time until the head is completely severed from the body," he said in the nationally televised news conference.

He said he will also offer cabinet posts to communist rebels and move to amend the constitution to give more power to the provinces.

In his first formal news conference since the vote on May 9, Mr Duterte added that he will launch a major military offensive to destroy the extremist group Abu Sayyaf on the southern Jolo Island.

The announcements are a sharp departure from current government policy and reflect his brash campaign pledge to end crime and corruption in the impoverished nation in three to six months.

Police officials have said the plan is unachievable and that crime remains prevalent in Davao City, where Mr Duterte has served as mayor for more than 22 years.

The military have been fighting a decades-long Marxist insurgency in the countryside.

Mr Duterte said he is likely to offer the cabinet posts of environment and natural resources, agrarian reform, social welfare, and labour to the communist rebels.

He said: "They are the most vigilant group in the Philippines about labour so they would get it."

The move is likely to be opposed by big business and industry.

Mr Duterte said he would also sell the presidential yacht and use the money to buy medical equipment for military and police personnel.

"When people are hungry and jobless ... it would be an obscene thing" to have the luxury vessel lying unused, he said.

Chairman of the country's Commission on Human Rights, Chito Gascon, said his agency opposes the death penalty and would block any attempt to reimpose it, adding that the constitution forbids cruel and degrading punishments like hanging.

Mr Gascon said: "In a country where the rule of law has so many loopholes and problems, what will happen is the possibility of a mistaken conviction."

Mr Duterte also plans to switch to a federal form of government, aiming to give more power and resources to regions, including the country's south, where Davao City is located. Such a change would require an amendment to the constitution.

He reiterated his vow to control illegal drugs and crime, even if it means losing the presidency or his life.

He told critics: "Stop messing with me, because I have a sacred promise to save the next generation from the evil of drugs."

He also promised to cut government red tape and remove corrupt officials. Mr Duterte said "contaminated" police generals facing corruption cases should "get out now" before he assumes office. If not, they should prepare to be sent to invade the Abu Sayyaf militants, who have been blamed for multiple kidnappings and beheadings.

"And if you are taken hostage there, say your 'Our Fathers' because I will never, never pay anything to retrieve you," he added.

Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Visaya, who is being considered by Mr Duterte to head the military, said he met over the weekend with the mayor, who told him he wanted troops to finish off the Abu Sayyaf within the president's six-year term and to back up the police in going after drug syndicates.

After the news conference, Mr Duterte met with the ambassadors of China, Japan and Israel. Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua gave him a book about Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Press Association

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News