Duterte warns of ‘revolutionary government’ and arrests

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine president, in his latest outburst against critics, warned he would declare a “revolutionary government” and arrest his detractors if he is pushed against the wall.

President Rodrigo Duterte made the threat late Thursday in a speech in which he expressed exasperation with criticism while trying to fight criminality. Duterte has been known for provocative remarks, which his spokesmen have often downplayed as hyperbole.

“I have enough problems with criminality, drugs, rebellion and all, but if you push me to the extreme, I will declare the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and I will arrest all of you,” Duterte said, adding that he is willing to face the consequences. “I am willing to be hanged. I’m willing to die.”

Duterte’s threat drew concern from democracy and human rights advocates.

Former Commission on Human Rights chairwoman Loretta Ann Rosales said the country’s 1987 constitution guarantees freedom of speech, including criticism of officials. She said habeas corpus, which requires the state to justify a citizen’s detention, can only be suspended during specific contingencies such as war or dictatorship.

“The president should know that employing tactics from the Marcos playbook does not end well,” Rosales said, referring to Ferdinand Marcos, the late Philippine dictator who was ousted in a 1986 popular revolt.

Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros said Duterte should confront China over its increasingly aggressive actions in the disputed South China Sea instead of threatening civil liberties. “Instead of standing up to China’s aggression, President Duterte threatens his own people with warrantless arrests and war,” Hontiveros said.

Duterte acknowledged the term “revolutionary government” wasn’t clearly defined, but said that it “usually happens when there is a military coup or (the) president goes against his own government.”

Known for his expletive-laced speeches, Duterte has been especially sensitive to criticism of his crackdown on illegal drugs, which has left more than 5,000 people dead in clashes police say occurred when suspects fought back. Western governments and human rights groups have expressed alarm over the killings and sought an independent investigation.

Duterte has denied ordering extrajudicial killings but has repeatedly threatened drug dealers with death.

The Supreme Court has ordered the government, through the solicitor general, to provide copies of police records on anti-drug operations and drug-linked deaths to the court and to two rights groups. The ruling was praised by human rights advocates as a step that could help determine if law enforcers committed atrocities.

The top World Health Organization official in Manila, meanwhile, said it would support Philippine efforts to create more opportunities for treatment of drug addiction, which the WHO says should be dealt with as a public health issue.

“There is no easy fix to a medical condition which is of a chronic nature, and so telling people to stop is not working,” Dr. Gundo Weiler said at a news conference.