Although the Philippines’ presidential election was decided a little less than a month ago, some voters may be rethinking their vote.
President-elect Maverick Rodrigo Duterte, a candidate popularized for his crass comments and success as a local mayor, ran on a platform of fighting corruption and improving the economy.
Duterte's bid for president was especially appealing to his country's citizens. The Philippines have the third worst record for journalist safety, with at least 77 killed since 1992, and has a long history of political figures abusing a dysfunctional justice system to avoid accountability for their actions.
But Duterte's supporters have just realized that they might not get everything they thought they would when they voted him into office. In a recent press conference, when asked how he would address his country’s issue with political killings of journalists, Duterte defended their deaths.
“Most of those [journalists] killed have done something,” Duterte claimed. “You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong.”
He then went to say that “just because you're a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch.”
Duterte’s statement has caused heavy backlash. Philippino media groups have openly denounced Duterte for his words. Even the Philippine Presidential Communications Secretary released a statement, saying that journalists have a fundamental right to protection, no matter what, and it should be the “duty of the government to arrest, prosecute, and punish those responsible for violence against the members of the media.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists, an international media watchdog, urged Duterte to “retract his comments and to signal that he intends to protect, not target, the press.”
I can only imagine how cheated and let down the people of the Philippines must feel after hearing those words come from the mouth of their soon-to-be president elected to clean up their country. The world can only hope that this was just another bad joke that Duterte will soon distance himself from, although he has not yet apologized or appeared the least bit worried about the backlash.