Philippines' Duterte Wants Death Penalty for Corruption: 'It Is Blood That We Need to Cleanse and Rinse Away'

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has urged his country's lawmakers to reinstate the death penalty for drug offenses and the corruption that aids it, describing the crimes as "heinous." His PDP-Laban party has a supermajority in the House of Representatives.

Duterte is in the middle of a vicious war on illicit drugs, which has led to thousands of extrajudicial killings that were encouraged and endorsed by him. He is accused of human rights abuses and his administration is under investigation by the United Nations.

As well as the drugs trade, Duterte has launched a war on corruption in Filipino society and has regularly fired government officials. Now, he wants some of them dead at the hands of state-sanctioned executioners.

During his State of the Nation address on Monday, Duterte said there is corruption "everywhere in government," and said the Filipino people "are our own demons...rapacious predators preying on the helpless, the weak, and the voiceless."

"No amount of euphemism can trivialize or normalize betrayal of public trust or any other criminal offense. It is an injury laced with insult. It is both a national embarrassment and a national shame," Duterte said.

He continued: "Corruption exasperates. It frustrates. It is also exasperating that there are times when I think that perhaps it is blood that we need to cleanse, and rinse away the dirt and the muck that stick to the flesh like leeches.

"Of course, it is only a thought. I am simply thinking aloud to dispel any controversy that my statements in this regard will create something else...sometimes they write what I say, and they rewrite, and they write what I say and not what I mean.

"I use similes, metaphors, hyperbole, and other figures of speech every now and then to prove or stress a point. I am as human as anybody else."

Duterte opened his annual State of the Nation address with a pledge to maintain his combative posture: "It is not the eagle in the fight, but the fight in the eagle that matters. Believe me, I will end my term fighting."

Last Friday, three dozen of Duterte's critics faced charges of cyber libel and sedition over anonymous YouTube videos accusing the leader and his family of financial links to the illegal drugs trade. They are accused of conspiring with a fake whistleblower.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, one of those facing charges, accused Duterte of "political persecution and harassment...meant to stifle democratic dissent." There are credibility questions around the main witness in the case against Duterte's critics.

After the United Nation Human Rights Council adopted an Iceland-led resolution calling for a probe into the human rights situation in the Philippines, including the drugs war and the targeting of government critics, Duterte said he would not answer to white people.

"I will only face, be tried or face a trial in a Philippine court, presided by a Filipino judge, [and] prosecuted by a Filipino. And maybe they can reimpose [the] death penalty, [so I can] die in Filipino land," Duterte said during a television interview last week, Inquirer reported.

"I will not answer a Caucasian... You must be stupid. Who are you? I am a Filipino. We have our courts here. You have to bring me somewhere else? I would not like that. I have my country. It's working, I know it's working, justice is working here."

Duterte Philippines death penalty corruption drugs war
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he delivers his state of the nation address at Congress in Manila on July 22, 2019. Duterte called on lawmakers to reinstate the death penalty for drug crimes and corruption. NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images