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Tuesday , November 20 2018

‘Death penalty was for retribution’ – Duterte ready to clash with Catholic church on birth control

Philippines’ president-elect Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he delivers his speech before city hall employees on Davao City, in the southern island of Mindanao on June 27, three days before taking oath as president. (AFP)
Philippines’ president-elect Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he delivers his speech before city hall employees on Davao City, in the southern island of Mindanao on June 27, three days before taking oath as president. (AFP)

MANILA, June 27, (Agencies): Incoming Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte on Monday hit out at “stupid” human rights campaigners, as he defended his imminent war on crime and emphasised the death penalty was for retribution. Duterte gave a lengthy speech in his southern hometown of Davao to outline his vision for the nation once he takes office on Thursday, with a heavy focus on his controversial plans to fight crime.

“These human rights (groups), congressmen, how stupid you are,” Duterte said, as he highlighted their criticism of his plans to impose latenight curfews on children being out on the streets and to reintroduce the death penalty. “I believe in retribution. Why? You should pay. When you kill someone, rape, you should die,” he said.

Duterte, 71, won last month’s presidential elections in a landslide after campaigning largely on a platform of ending rampant crime, warning that the Philippines was in danger of becoming a narco-state. He promised that tens of thousands of people would die, with security forces being given shoot to kill orders. Since winning Duterte has also promised to give bounties to police for killing drug dealers, and also encouraged ordinary citizens to kill or arrest suspects.

Duterte has been accused of links to vigilante death squads during his nearly two decades as mayor of Davao, which rights groups say have killed more than 1,000 people.

Concern
Local and foreign human rights groups have expressed deep concern about his plans as president, fearing an explosion of extrajudicial killings similar to those seen in Davao. The United Nations’ human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, this month urged Duterte not to reintroduce the death penalty, while criticising other elements of the planned war on crime. “The offer of bounties and other rewards for murder by vigilantes, and his encouragement of extrajudicial killings by security forces, are massive and damaging steps backwards which could lead to widespread violence and chaos,” Zeid said.

With just three days before assuming the presidency, Duterte stood firm. “When they describe or characterise a human rights violator, these fools make it appear that the people you kill are saints, as if they are pitiful or innocent,” he said. Duterte said European ambassadors were also among those who had expressed concern over the death penalty and extrajudicial killings.

The Philippines abolished the death penalty in 2006 following fierce opposition from the Catholic Church, the religion of 80 percent of Filipinos. Duterte previously said he preferred death by hanging to a firing squad because he did not want to waste bullets, and because he believed snapping the spine with a noose was more humane.

The Philippine president-elect said Monday he would aggressively promote artificial birth control in the country even at the risk of getting in a fight with the dominant Catholic church, which staunchly opposes the use of contraceptives. Rodrigo Duterte, who is to be sworn to the presidency on Thursday, said having many children has driven families deeper into poverty, and he reiterated his recommendation for Filipinos to have three at most.

Known for his profanity-laden speeches, Duterte cited his family planning program as a longtime mayor in southern Davao city, where he has offered cash rewards to villagers who volunteer to undergo free vasectomy or ligation and to doctors who perform the procedures. “I will reinstall the program of family planning. Three’s enough,” Duterte said in a speech after a flagraising ceremony in front of the Davao city hall. “I’ve also been colliding with the church because it’s no longer realistic.” It was not clear if Duterte would replicate the reward system nationwide. Duterte praised former President Fidel Ramos, who backed his presidential candidacy, for courageously promoting contraceptives as the country’s first Protestant leader starting in 1992.

Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, also figured in a highprofile spat with the Catholic church for signing a 2012 reproductive health law that allowed the government to finance the acquisition and distribution of contraceptives after overcoming a legal challenge by opponents. Many politicians have tried to avoid colliding with influential Catholic bishops in the Philippines in the past by taking a vague position or not aggressively advocating contraceptives use.

Catholic leaders considered the law an attack on the church’s core values. Aquino’s government said it helped the poor manage their number of children in a country that has one of Asia’s fastest-growing populations. Duterte has had an adversarial relation with the church.

During the campaign, Duterte had a tiff with Catholic bishops after cursing Pope Francis due to a monstrous traffic jam during the papal visit in January last year. Last month, Duterte blasted the local Catholic church as “the most hypocritical institution” and accused some of its bishops of asking for favors from politicians.

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