Duterte vows action after toddler is beaten to death

Rise in cases of child abuse and violence against women alarms Philippine President

MANILA • It is not just illegal drug operations that are on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's radar.

Alarmed by escalating cases of child abuse and violence against women in the country, he has now vowed to take action.

"Child and sexual abuse are on the rise. And crimes against women are also increasing," Mr Duterte said at the Davao International Airport, before leaving to attend an economic summit in Peru on Thursday.

The President vowed justice for a recent case of a two-year-old boy allegedly beaten to death by his guardians Sarah Jane Alcain and her husband Ronilo in Davao City.

According to reports, the couple got angry because the child wet his pants but they denied that they killed him.

The child's mother is a Filipina working in the Middle East.

Said Mr Duterte: "This is really very disturbing, for a human being who cannot defend himself to die in a brutal manner through negligence. We will have to do something about this."

According to him, there are many cases where parents leave their children in the care of relatives while they earn a living in other countries. And in not a few incidents, their hard work becomes all for naught when their children end up abused or dead back home. Some children of overseas workers also end up addicted to drugs.

The outspoken statesman has also lashed out at the "hypocrisy" of the West for closing borders to an exodus of refugees. He said he would welcome refugees to the Philippines and accept them until the country was "filled to the brim".

In a short documentary broadcast on Thursday by news network Al Jazeera, Mr Duterte lambasted critics for complaining about his deadly war on drugs and railed at the United States for "bullying" that he said someone had to stand up to.

He accused Washington of double standards and said where human rights are concerned, the Philippines is in the same league as the US, where "bigotry is very much alive" and where police kill innocent people, not drug pushers.

In his interview, which was crammed with expletives, the 71-year-old former mayor spoke warmly of Beijing and Moscow, describing Chinese President Xi Jinping as "a very courteous person" and Russian President Vladimir Putin as a man who is sincere.

Commenting on the refugee exodus that has plagued Europe, Mr Duterte said Western countries have failed those most in need, and the Philippines, a developing country of 100 million people, is willing to take them in.

"They can always come here, and will be welcome here, until we are filled to the brim," he said. "It is all right... We will accept them. They are human beings."

REUTERS, PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2016, with the headline 'Duterte vows action after toddler is beaten to death'. Print Edition | Subscribe