MANILA • Philippine President- elect Rodrigo Duterte does not endorse extrajudicial killings, his spokesman said yesterday after scathing criticism from the United Nations chief over his plans for thousands of people to die in an unprecedented war on crime.
Mr Duterte won last month's elections by a landslide largely due to an explosive law-and-order platform in which he pledged to end crime in the country within six months of taking office by killing tens of thousands of suspected criminals.
He has since offered large bounties to security forces and the general public to kill drug traffickers.
However, his spokesman insisted yesterday that Mr Duterte did not support extrajudicial killings.
"The President-elect has not endorsed - cannot - and will never endorse extrajudicial killings, they being contrary to law," Mr Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
"He does not condone the killing of journalists nor any citizen for that matter, regardless of its purpose."
Mr Panelo said UN Secretary- General Ban Ki Moon believed "incorrect news reports" when he condemned Mr Duterte's apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings.
Mr Ban said in a speech in New York last Wednesday that he was "extremely disturbed" by Mr Duterte's remarks, voicing particular concern over his comments seen as justifying killing journalists.
Mr Duterte, who takes office on June 30, recently said journalists who took bribes or engaged in other corrupt activities were legitimate targets of assassination. "Just because you're a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you're a son of a bitch."
Mr Duterte cited the case of journalist and politician Jun Pala, whose 2003 murder, like those of scores of other journalists killed in the Philippines, has never been solved. "I do not want to diminish his memory, but he was a rotten son of a bitch. He deserved it," said the tough-talking President-elect.
His comments sparked outrage from local and foreign media groups which warned that his rhetoric could incite more murders in what is already one of the world's most dangerous nations for reporters.