Like father, like son? Ex-Philippine president’s son warns he’ll ‘kill’ drug dealers

BenarNews staff
Like father, like son? Ex-Philippine president’s son warns he’ll ‘kill’ drug dealers Veronica Duterte holds a Bible while her father, Rodrigo Duterte is sworn in as Philippine president while family members Sebastian Duterte (center), Sara Duterte and Paolo Duterte look on during a ceremony in Malacañang Palace in Manila, June 30, 2016.
Presidential Communications Office/handout/AFP

Human rights groups in the Philippines expressed grave concern Tuesday over a warning by ex-President Rodrigo Duterte’s son that he would kill drug addicts and pushers – an echo of his father’s anti-narcotics campaign, which the International Criminal Court is investigating. 

Sebastian Duterte made the declaration in his role as mayor of southern Davao City, where his father also governed before serving as president, when thousands of suspects were killed by police across the nation as part of his administration’s crackdown on illegal drugs.

“I repeat, if you don’t leave the city, if you don’t stop drug peddling, I will kill you,” Sebastian Duterte, 36, said last Friday during the turnover of command for the police department in Davao. 

“I can’t afford that families, the communities would be destroyed just because of your selfish venture. You just want to get rich by selling drugs, then you harm other people because of your greediness, then I will kill you,” the young mayor said. 

The Philippine government has said that about 8,000 suspected dealers and addicts were killed during the counter-narcotics campaign by the Duterte administration (2016 to 2022), but rights advocates have said the figure could be more than twice as much.

Then-President Rodrigo Duterte, who was known for his tough-talking manner, once publicly encouraged police officers to shoot and kill drug suspects.

“I said, ‘go there and you are free to kill everybody,’ … go start killing them,” he said during a visit to the central Philippine city of Bacolod in October 2019. 

Sebastian Duterte, whose older sister Sara is vice president, said drugs remained a problem in Davao despite his father’s approach during his presidency. She had also served as mayor in the Duterte clan’s hometown.

Carlos Conde, a senior Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, said activists were deeply concerned about the younger Duterte’s declaration, saying it would worsen the dire human rights situation in Davao. 

“Needless to say, and as we have seen during the time of his father Rodrigo as president, the ‘drug war’ has been catastrophic, particularly for poor Filipinos often targeted by the authorities in bloody drug raids,” Conde said in a statement. 

“The national government should step in to stop the carnage in Davao City and elsewhere,” he said. 

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. who ran as an ally of the Duterte family ahead of the 2022 election, “should be alarmed by this and should take action by rescinding the government’s official policies legitimizing the ‘drug war’ and order the police, whether in Davao City or elsewhere, to stand down,” Conde said. 

Rights groups

The Commission on Human Rights also denounced Sebastian Duterte’s declaration.

“Principal to the pursuit of truth and justice relies on the unconditional respect for every person’s most fundamental right – the right to life itself even if they are arrested for an alleged criminal offense,” it said in a statement.

“Using extrajudicial means undermines the rule of law and destroys faith in legal systems, ultimately hindering genuine efforts to address the root causes of drug-related problems in the country,” the commission said. 

Hours after Sebastian Duterte’s announcement, a man identified as a big-time drug suspect was killed during a Saturday morning shootout with police outside the city. Two more suspects were killed in separate operations on the same day.

By Sunday morning, a fourth suspect was killed in the village of Mintal and a fifth was killed in the afternoon after police said he resisted arrest.


Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody campaigns as mayor and president led to two complaints against him filed with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

One was filed by a former police officer, a self-styled assassin who accused him of ordering the deaths of opponents and criminals when Duterte served as mayor of southern Davao city. The second was filed by relatives of people killed while he served as president. 

During his presidency, Duterte withdrew the Philippines from an international treaty that created the ICC and he argued that he would not allow himself to be subjected to an international trial.  

A 2021 investigation by the Philippine Department of Justice said that in many cases, police officers involved in the killings did not follow protocol and could be prosecuted. Four police officers have been convicted of murder linked to drug-war killings.

Dennis Jay Santos and Richel V. Umel in Davao City, Philippines, contributed to this report.


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