Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines leader known for his fiery rants and brutal war on drugs, has made a thinly veiled threat to drug dealers, suggesting they find a way to stay in jail if they want to stay alive.
The Philippines president, who came to power on the back of his promise to eradicate a sprawling illegal drug trade and gang crime, has repeatedly come under fire from human rights advocates at home and abroad for his no-nonsense approach to those involved in drug trafficking.
He once encouraged police to kill “idiots” who resist arrest during raids, threatened to drop bombs on drug lords and declared that he wouldn’t hesitate to murder his own son if allegations of his involvement in drug crimes turned out to be true.
Speaking in Manila on Tuesday, Duterte, who earlier this month vehemently denied being a strongman, went on another verbal crusade against those who make fortunes off drug profits in Cebu province.
Duterte listed the benefits of being locked up, such as a potentially longer lifespan.
"You know if I were you guys in Cebu, stay in jail. You want to live longer? Stay in jail," the Philippines leader cautioned. “Look for your own reason to be in jail. Do not go out of that facility. It would be healthy for you.”
Despite invoking the wrath of human rights organizations, including the UN Human Rights Council, for what his critics see as a campaign of extrajudicial killings he instigated, the firebrand leader remained unperturbed and vowed to continue his war, recently branding UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein “a son of a whore” (an insult he famously used against US President Barack Obama a few years back) and threatening to arrest an International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor who launched a preliminary investigation into claims that he had committed crimes against humanity.
Police say they have killed over 4,100 people in anti-drug operations since July 2016. However, human rights groups allege the number is at least three times that.
Duterte earlier boasted of personally killing suspected criminals while serving as a mayor of the southern city of Davao before being elected President in 2016.