Duterte pledges war on crime as he is sworn in

Mr Duterte, in a barong, taking his oath of office as the Philippine President at Malacanang Palace yesterday. The tough-talking, gun-toting former mayor of Davao City won the presidential election in May. Crowds gathering outside the Malacanang Pala
Crowds gathering outside the Malacanang Palace in Manila, where Mr Duterte was inaugurated as President yesterday. In keeping with the new leader's preference, guests at the ceremonies were served homely fare such as coconut pith spring rolls, white cheese made from unskimmed carabao milk, mung bean soup, spinach and durian tartlet.PHOTO: REUTERS
Mr Duterte, in a barong, taking his oath of office as the Philippine President at Malacanang Palace yesterday. The tough-talking, gun-toting former mayor of Davao City won the presidential election in May. Crowds gathering outside the Malacanang Pala
Ms Robredo was inaugurated as the Philippine Vice-President yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Mr Duterte, in a barong, taking his oath of office as the Philippine President at Malacanang Palace yesterday. The tough-talking, gun-toting former mayor of Davao City won the presidential election in May. Crowds gathering outside the Malacanang Pala
Ms Robredo was inaugurated as the Philippine Vice-President yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

New Philippine President opts for low-key and frugal inauguration ceremonies

Populist firebrand Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in yesterday as the Philippines' 16th president, with a promise to wage a "relentless" and "sustained" war on crime and corruption.

"The fight will be relentless, and it will be sustained," the 71-year-old anti-crime maverick said in a 16-minute speech shortly after he took his oath.

"The ride will be rough, but come and join me just the same. Together, shoulder to shoulder, let us take the first wobbly steps in this quest," he added.

More than 600 guests representing a motley mix of political groups that have coalesced around Mr Duterte - communists, business magnates, and loyalists of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos - were at the inauguration held at Malacanang Palace in Manila.

The ceremonies were low-key and frugal, in keeping with Mr Duterte's loathing for ostentation.

PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE ON...

FIGHTING CRIME I know that there are those who do not approve of my methods of fighting criminality, the sale and use of illegal drugs and corruption. They say that my methods are unorthodox and verge on the illegal...

As a lawyer and a former prosecutor, I know the limits of the power and authority of the president. I know what is legal and what is not. My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising.


PEACE AGREEMENTS AND INTERNATIONAL TREATIES

On the international front and community of nations, let me reiterate that the Republic of the Philippines will honour treaties and international obligations.

On the domestic front, my administration is committed to implement all signed peace agreements in step with constitutional and legal reforms. ''


WHY LEADERS MUST LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE

No leader, however strong, can succeed at anything of national importance or significance unless he has the support and cooperation of the people he is tasked to lead and sworn to serve.


VICE-PRESIDENT LENI ROBREDO ON THE NEED FOR UNITY

During these times of conflict, unity is most important for our nation. We may come from different walks of life or different advocacies, but our dreams are the same: that each Filipino will live a dignified, prosperous life.

''

Past presidents had opted to hold their inauguration in sprawling public parks to draw hundreds of thousands of onlookers, and host lavish dinners for important guests.

For his guests, Mr Duterte had asked for homely dishes that included coconut pith spring rolls, white cheese made from unskimmed carabao milk, mung bean soup, spinach, and durian tartlet.

The new president, who prefers button-down, short-sleeved shirts, never wears socks, and vows he will not be seen with a tie, conceded to wearing a barong - an embroidered Filipino formal wear - and light-coloured pants. But he had on what looked like slip-on loafers.

Departing from his brash, usually profanity-laced, mien, Mr Duterte again hammered on his central themes in his inaugural speech: ending crime and ridding the bureaucracy of graft.

He said that "corruption, both in the high and low echelons of government, criminality in the streets and rampant sale of illegal drugs" are "the problems that bedevil our country today which need to be addressed with urgency".

He had promised to end crime in six months, even if it meant employing extrajudicial means.

Mr Duterte carved a reputation as a tough-talking, gun-toting mayor who would not baulk at setting loose "death squads" on criminal gangs, earning him the monicker "Punisher". Amid accusations that his "dirty" tactics had led to the extrajudicial killings of at least 1,000 suspected criminals, some of them minors, Mr Duterte succeeded in transforming his home city of Davao from a lawless enclave in the war-torn southern region of Mindanao into one of the nation's safest.

In his speech yesterday, Mr Duterte said his methods may be "unorthodox" and even "verge on the illegal", but he insisted he had witnessed how crime and illegal drugs had ruined families and decimated hard-earned wealth. "Look at it from that perspective, and tell me that I am wrong," he said.

Mr Duterte then asked lawmakers and human rights campaigners "to allow us a level of governance consistent with our mandate".

"You mind your work, and I will mind mine," he said.

In another break with tradition, Mr Duterte was inaugurated separately from his Vice-President, the 52-year-old widow Leni Robredo. She took her oath hours earlier, at her new office 10km north of Malacanang.

Mr Duterte had been keeping his distance from Ms Robredo, who belongs to a different party, out of a sense of gratitude to his ally, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who lost to her by a slim margin.

At her inauguration, Ms Robredo extended a conciliatory note to Mr Duterte, saying: "We should build on our unity, and look for strength in our differences."

One tradition Mr Duterte stuck to was giving his predecessor Benigno Aquino departure honours. Mr Aquino was later driven out of Malacanang, an ordinary citizen again.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2016, with the headline 'Duterte pledges war on crime as he is sworn in'. Print Edition | Subscribe