When Duterte Said 'We Should Kill' Rich People He Didn't Mean it Literally, Claims Philippines Leader's Spokesman

A spokesman for Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte warned not to take the leader's words literally after he declared that "crazy" rich people need to be killed.

Defending Duterte's comments, Malacanang Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said the president spoke figuratively when hitting out against water companies Manila Water and Maynilad during a speech on the island of Leyte on Thursday.

"There are rich people in the Philippines who are crazy. They're the ones whom we should kill. Just wait for my go signal," Duterte said, reported GMA News.

"Just like Ayala and Pangilinan, who own [cellphone companies] Globe and Smart. They are all thieves, those sons of b******. That's the whole truth."

"They are listening now because this is being broadcast nationwide," Duterte added, via ABS-CBN News.

"Well, it's good for them to hear this. They have violated the rights of people. They are just distributors of water yet they have become millionaires because they overpowered the Filipino. That's why I am angry at them."

During a radio interview, Panelo said Duterte did not mean people should actually go out and kill the rich, but was being "graphic" with his rhetoric because "that has been his style."

"You know, by this time, we already know what the president meant. When he said kill the crazy rich, that means you kill the desires of the rich to steal money from the taxpayers, from consumers," Panelo said, via Philstar Global.

"That's what he meant, not the literal killing. It's not just a figure of speech, it was meant to stress the importance of what he's saying."

Panelo added that Duterte was reminding rich people and companies that the law is mandatory after accusing Maynilad and Manila Water of ripping off the public with their government contracts.

"We have a law and we will implement the law. Following it is not an option. Those who are wielding influence over the higher-ups, you do not follow the law. Not this time. That's what he meant," he added.

The comments came after Duterte banned two U.S senators from entering the country and threatened further restrictions for American travelers over the fallout from the incarceration of a government critic.

Senators Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy were banned from the Philippines in December after Congress passed their provision banning from the U.S. any Filipino official involved in the controversial jailing of Philippine Senator Leila de Lima.

Lima, a critic of the Philippines leader, was charged with drug offenses in 2017 after investigating and speaking out about the number of deaths linked to Duterte's controversial war on drugs in the country.

"We will not sit idly if they continue to interfere with our processes as a sovereign state," Panelo told a press conference. The case of Senator De Lima is not one of persecution but of prosecution."

Rodrigo Duterte
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during a press conference at Malacanang Palace in Manila on November 19, 2019. TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty