Philippines' Duterte Offers Reward for Capture of Felons Released From Prison by Mistake, Would Prefer it if Convicts Are Dead: 'I Will Pay You Smiling'

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte offered up a cash reward to those who capture "dead or alive" any of the some 1,000 convicted felons still at large after they were mistakenly released early from prison, in defiance of a presidential order.

Duterte, who has waged a brutal war on drugs criticized by human rights groups for the thousands of extrajudicial killings it has led to, said he will reward with one million pesos ($19,171) citizens who capture the felons, who include rapists, murderers, and kidnappers.

"The one million prize is available to those who can capture them dead or alive. But maybe dead would be a better option. I will pay you smiling," Duterte told journalists in Manila on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

In August, a large number of prisoners were released in error by Nicanor Faeldon, the former director-general of the Bureau of Corrections, under a program that rewarded good behavior while incarcerated.

There were over 22,000 released in total since 2014. Duterte had instructed Faeldon not to release anyone else under the program because their cases needed to be reviewed first. But 1,700 of the most serious offenders were released, many of them under Faeldon.

Duterte subsequently fired Faeldon for defying his order by signing off the early release of 900 of those convicts. "He should have echoed my order to him. No releases until further notice by higher authority. Higher authority," Duterte said after the firing, Gulf News reported, referring to public outrage over the releases as his reason for ordering them to be put on hold.

The president ordered the serious offenders to turn themselves in and around 700 have done so. But the rest remain on the outside, and Duterte turned up the heat by reiterating that there is a reward for their capture and suggesting he is comfortable with vigilantes executing them.

However, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Duterte's "dead or alive" comment "should not be taken literally," Philstar reported: "Law enforcers are supposed to effect peaceful arrests, but may use reasonable force if the subject of arrest violently resists and endangers the security of the arresting officer."

Gerald Bantag, the former warden of Manila and Parañaque city jails, was chosen by Duterte to head up the Bureau of Corrections. Bantag is charged with 10 counts of homicide after an explosion at the Parañaque jail back in 2016, Manila Standard reported, and the case is still outstanding.

"The constitutional presumption of innocence applies to him, so you wouldn't say he's a criminal," Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo said, GMA News Online reported, adding that Bantag is "professionally competent."

The United Nations Human Rights Council voted in July to investigate the Duterte administration over alleged extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, and arbitrary arrests and detention under his anti-drugs crackdown.

Rodrigo Duterte Philippines dead alive reward
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (not pictured) during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on August 30, 2019. Duterte has said he would like the capture "dead or alive" of violent convicts released from prison early by mistake. HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP