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Rodrigo Duterte must be investigated, says UN …

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by December 21, 2016 General

Bangkok: The United Nations has called on Philippine authorities to investigate controversial president Rodrigo Duterte for murder after he bragged about killing people last week.

Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, also urged investigations into the “appalling epidemic of extra-judicial killings” under Mr Duterte’s deadly crackdown on drugs that has left almost 6000 people dead.

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‘If you destroy Davao, I will kill you’: Duterte

“If you are here and if you are into crime, kindly leave Davao. If you destroy Davao, I will kill you,” says Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during his two-day visit to Singapore.

In unprecedented criticism of a serving national leader by the world body, Mr Zeid said children as young as five have become victims of the violence, adding he was surprised there has been no sign of prosecution of those responsible.

“The perpetrators must be brought to justice, sending a strong message that violence, killings and human rights violations will not be tolerated by the state and that no-one is above the law,” Mr Zeid said.

“The killings described by President Duterte violate international law, including the right to life, freedom from violence and force, due process and fair trial, equal protection under the law, and innocence until proven guilty,” he said.

“As a government official, if he encouraged others to follow his example, he may also have committed incitement to violence.”

The comments made in a statement released in Geneva on Tuesday night are likely to prompt an angry response from 71-year-old Mr Duterte, who has often hit back at international criticism of the crackdown, including telling US president Barack Obama to “got to hell” and calling him the “son of a whore”, and threatening to withdraw the Philippines from the United Nations.

Brash-talking Mr Duterte boasted that when he was mayor of southern Davao City he used to hunt suspects on his motorcycle, shooting people on the spot.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted to killing people. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted to killing people. Photo: AP

The goal, he said, was to encourage police officers to do the same.

“In Davao I used to do it personally. Just to show to the [policemen] that if I can do it, why can’t you?” he said.

A person killed by masked men lies in the street in Manila, part of President Rodrigo Duterte's drug crackdown. A person killed by masked men lies in the street in Manila, part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug crackdown.  Photo: Kate Geraghty

“I go around in Davao [on] a big bike and I would just patrol the streets and looking for trouble. I was really looking for an encounter to kill.”

Later Mr Duterte sought to clarify the claim, saying he killed three suspected kidnappers in a fire-fight in 1988 when he was backed up by three police officers.

Overcrowding: more than 3500 people are held in Quezon City Jail in Manila, as a result of Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs. Overcrowding: more than 3500 people are held in Quezon City Jail in Manila, as a result of Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. Photo: Kate Geraghty

He said he was unsure whether the bullets from his M16 rifle actually killed the suspects.

Since being swept into office at May elections Mr Duterte and his aides have often backtracked from exaggerated claims and on-the-spot policy declarations.

Filipino supporters cheer as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrives to meet the Filipino community in Singapore on ... Filipino supporters cheer as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrives to meet the Filipino community in Singapore on Friday. Photo: AP

Philippine Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre defended Mr Duterte’s killing remarks, saying he often exaggerates to send a chilling warning to lawbreakers.

In just five months in power, Mr Duterte has upended Philippine foreign policy by berating the United States and making overtures to China, while his drug crackdown has been condemned by the UN, the US, the European Union, the Catholic Church and human rights groups.

A Filipino supporter wears a t-shirt with pictures of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. A Filipino supporter wears a t-shirt with pictures of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo: AP

Last weekend, Mr Duterte reacted with rage to what he thought was a US decision to scrap a major aid package over human rights concerns, saying he would terminate a pact that allows US troops, ships and planes to rotate through Philippine military bases.

“Bye-bye America,” he declared.

But Mr Duterte was in fact referring to a US government aid agency, the Millennium Challenge Corp, which said it had only deferred a vote on a renewal of the development assistance package to the Philippines “subject to a further review of concerns around rule of law and civil liberties”.

After having a 90 per cent popularity rating in his first months in power, opposition to Mr Duterte’s rule has grown as bodies have piled up on the streets, many of them victims of vigilante-style targeted assassinations.

The president’s popularity is now hovering at around 60 per cent as his government moves to restore the death penalty which is opposed by the Catholic Church and many civil society groups.

Mr Duterte has said up to six criminals, including those convicted for drugs offences, will be executed every day, setting his country on a collision course with Australia which is campaigning internationally against capital punishment.

The Turnbull government has made little comment about the Philippine killings or the controversies that have engulfed Mr Duterte since he took office on June 30.

Mr Duterte has denied police are conducting extra-judicial killings but has repeatedly urged police to shoot-on-sight drug suspects who fail to surrender.

US President-elect Donald Trump has praised the drug crackdown and invited him to the White House next year, according to Mr Duterte who spoke to Mr Trump after his election victory .

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