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The Philippines’ likely new president has pledged to execute 100,000 people, and jokes about gang rape

REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Presidential candidate Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte.
  • Heather Timmons
By Heather Timmons

White House correspondent

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

The next president of the Philippines is likely to be a pugnacious lawyer-turned-politician who has pledged to execute 100,000 criminals and dump them into Manila Bay—and has confessed to killing several people himself.

Rodrigo Duterte, known as “the Punisher” and “Duterte Harry” among other nicknames, took such a commanding lead in the general election today (May 9) that one challenger, Grace Poe, has already conceded, even though an official count of the votes isn’t expected until June.

With 76% of precincts reporting unofficial results, he has a more than five million vote lead over his closest competitor, in a winner-take-all contest between five candidates. (Update: Duterte has claimed victory.)

As the mayor of Davao City, Duterte empowered ”death squads” that are believed to have killed about 1,000 people without trial, according to Human Rights Watch, including hundreds of children. After a female missionary was gang-raped in the city jail while he was mayor, Duterte said it was a “waste” that the mayor could not have “been first,” because she was so beautiful.

Comedian John Oliver bestowed yet another nickname:

Duterte’s rise has taken place amid widespread frustration against president Benigno Aquino III, who belongs to the country’s dominant political dynasty. The country’s rapid economic growth hasn’t eliminated widespread corruption, inequality, or dangerous working conditions.

In the tense South China Sea, where China is feuding with its neighbors over contested territorial clais, Duterte has pledged to ride a jet ski to a disputed island. But he also said he’d “shut up” about his country’s long-standing claims there if China promises to build infrastructure in the Philippines while he is president.

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