Aquino to Filipinos: Resist rule by dictator

MANILA • Philippine leader Benigno Aquino yesterday called on his countrymen to fight attempts to take away their freedoms as he prepared to hand power over to president-elect Rodrigo Duterte, who has vowed to kill tens of thousands of criminals.

Mr Duterte won last month's elections in a landslide victory largely on a pledge to suppress what he said was rampant crime.

Speaking on the 118th anniversary of the country's declaration of independence from Spanish colonial rule, Mr Aquino said Filipinos must prevent a repeat of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos' 20-year rule. "Let us remember that, just a generation ago, the Philippine government itself was the one suppressing the freedom of our fellow Filipinos," Mr Aquino said. "A fellow Filipino deprived us of our freedoms. It means that if we are not vigilant, this can happen again."

Mr Aquino had warned during the election campaign that Mr Duterte, the then front-runner in the race to replace him as leader, carried similar dangers to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Mr Duterte, who takes office on June 30, has promised to end crime within six months of his presidency by ordering security forces to kill tens of thousands of suspected criminals and then pardon himself if found guilty of mass murder.

He has also been accused of running vigilante squads in Davao, where he has been the long-time mayor.

During the election, Mr Marcos' son and namesake narrowly lost the separate vice-presidential contest.

Mr Aquino was barred from seeking a second term by the post-Marcos Constitution that limits presidencies to a single six-year term.

"Now that we're entering a new chapter in our history, let us not forget that freedom must be guarded and nurtured," he said yesterday.

"We must strive to achieve and fight for all things that matter."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2016, with the headline 'Aquino to Filipinos: Resist rule by dictator'. Print Edition | Subscribe