Rodrigo Duterte, seen here at a campaign rally, on Tuesday suggested the killing of corrupt journalists was justified in the Philippines. His comments were quickly condemned by a Philippine press organization. Photo courtesy of Rody Duterte
MANILA, June 1 (UPI) -- Rodrigo Duterte, president-elect of the Philippines, on Tuesday said there is justification in the killing of corrupt journalists days after a Manila crime reporter was shot dead.
Alex Balcoba, 56, was shot dead on Friday by two gunmen who fled on a motorcycle. Duterte made the comments in response to a question on how to protect freedom of the press.
"Most journalists killed are corrupt ... Just because you're a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you're a son of a bitch," Duterte said. "Freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong."
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemned Duterte's comments on Wednesday.
"It is appalling that President-elect Rodrigo Duterte should justify the murder of journalists in the country by playing the corruption card," the organization said in a statement. "Mr. Duterte's crass pronouncement not only sullies the names and memories of all 176 of our colleagues who have been murdered since 1986, he has also, in effect, declared open season to silence the media, both individual journalists and the institution, on the mere perception of corruption."
The Philippines is considered one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists by organizations including the Committee to Protect Journalists. Duterte has previously made inflammatory commentary, including one about the 1989 rape and murder of an Australian missionary.
Duterte, 71, who served as the mayor of Davao City, ran on an anti-crime platform that appeals to the country's upper and middle classes who fear rising criminality. He said he would establish a ruthless administration that would eradicate crime syndicates in the first six months of his tenure.
During his 22 years as mayor of Davao, Duterte said he ran vigilante death squads in which some 1,700 people were killed. Duterte will be sworn in as president on June 30.
"Murder is no joke. Neither is press freedom," the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said. "Be that as it may, the independent Philippine media will not be cowed from fulfilling its duty to act as the people's watchdog.