MANILA • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has told a high-profile alleged drug lord in a face-to-face meeting to submit himself to an investigation, warning the man not to lie or he will have him killed.
In the bizarre meeting held on Friday night that evoked scenes from a gangster film, the hardline, anti-crime President told Chinese-Filipino businessman Peter Lim to be probed by police to prove that he is not the "Peter Lim" identified as a drug lord.
But the businessman has denied that he is the alleged drug dealer who was singled out by Mr Duterte in an address on national television on July 7. The newly elected Philippine leader has publicly shamed police generals, politicians and private personalities whom he linked to narcotics.
"For now, you are not guilty, but if I find out that you are, I will have you finished. You better go to the investigating agency, the NBI," the President said, referring to the National Bureau of Investigation, in a video of the sitdown posted on a government YouTube channel yesterday.
Mr Duterte also warned Mr Lim not to lie to him because he would have the businessman killed.
"I will execute you... I will finish you off," the leader said during the meeting.
Peter Lim is a fairly common name in the Philippines, where part of the population claims ethnic Chinese descent.
The Peter Lim that Mr Duterte met with said that since the address - in which the President said "the moment he (Peter Lim) steps out of the plane, he will die" - he has feared for his life.
"My family is really in a deep problem now in Cebu. We are getting all the threats," Mr Lim said, referring to the central city where he runs a string of businesses.
But Mr Duterte shot back: "I will not say I'm sorry because the reason you're here is you're a suspected drug lord."
Mr Duterte built a fearsome anti-crime reputation as long-time mayor of the southern city of Davao, where he read out the names of drug suspects on his local radio programme and the shamed personalities would later turn up dead on city streets.
He won the May presidential election by a landslide largely on a pledge to kill tens of thousands of drug suspects and other criminals.
A nationwide crackdown has seen nearly 400 drug suspects shot dead by police or suspected anti-crime vigilantes.
Human rights groups and opposition politicians have raised an outcry over the deadly anti-drug campaign, but the government has insisted all the dead suspects had fought the police and that the vigilante killings were being investigated.
During his meeting with Mr Duterte, which took place at a drug enforcement agency office in Davao, Mr Lim denied any involvement in illegal drugs, but admitted he was investigated in 1997 for alleged links to narcotics. He then pledged cooperation in Mr Duterte's anti-crime campaign.
Before leaving the meeting, Mr Lim said: "Our nation is very lucky to have you. You're the only president who could save our nation. You really mean business."
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE