- Philippine Front-runner to maintain Aquino's economic agenda
- Says conflict with China over sea dispute would be `slaughter'
Rodrigo Duterte, the tough-talking mayor from the southern Philippines and front-runner in the country’s May 9 presidential elections, declared a "bloody war" against criminals and drug lords in a speech Wednesday, pledging to make fighting crime a cornerstone of his administration.
Promising to put 3,000 more police on the streets and double salaries for the police and military, Duterte blamed criminals for destroying the Philippines and said that if he was elected president voters would begin to see a difference within six months.
“Peace and order is the foundation through which progress can be made,” Duterte told a business leaders forum in Manila. “I will make this place peaceful for you.” Pledging to end corruption by running a government that was "clean as in clean, down to villages", Duterte said that if criminals put up any resistance, "I will simply say, ’kill all of them’."
According to the latest opinion poll, Duterte, 71, who has said summary executions are an effective weapon fighting crime, was leading the field of five candidates with 35 percent support, with Senator Grace Poe in second place with 23 percent, followed by former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas at 17 percent and Vice President Jejomar Binay with 16 percent.
Seeking to ease business concerns about his economic agenda, which has been largely obscured by a litany of controversial remarks on crime including saying he should have been first in line when an Australian missionary was gang raped, Duterte vowed to continue the economic policies laid down by former president Gloria Arroyo and the man he is hoping to succeed, Benigno Aquino. On the question of whether he would allow greater foreign ownership in the Philippines, Duterte said he would consult with business leaders after the election.
He also listed spending on health, education and agriculture as his other main priorities, and said that while a single six-year term may not be long enough, he would try to solve Manila’s chronic traffic problems with continued infrastructure investment. In an effort to foster small business enterprise, Duterte said he would allocate 1 billion pesos ($21.3 million) to each of the 18 Philippine regions.
On foreign policy, Duterte said that going to war with China over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea would be "slaughter." To avoid a conflict, he would remind the world’s second-largest economy of the Philippines’ strong alliances with western powers including the United States.
Born in Southern Leyte province in central Philippines, Duterte, whose lawyer-father was governor of the old Davao province, has served seven terms totaling 22 years as mayor of Davao City on the southern island of Mindanao. Davao, known as the nation’s murder capital during the rule of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, has since become one of the country’s safest and more prosperous cities.
“I am not a rich man, don’t believe in garbage, ” Duterte said, referring to Senator Antonio Trillanes’s allegation that he failed to declare 211 million pesos in a bank account in his statement of assets and liabilities as required by law. Trillanes’s claim was reported by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Wednesday.
Ronald Holmes, president of polling company Pulse Asia Research Inc. said that while Duterte’s ratings appeared to have been unaffected by the controversy over the Australian missionary, this may be because the comments had only been in the news for three days before Pulse finished its latest poll. "It takes a little bit more time. Social media is more viral, but how many access the news through social media?” said Holmes.