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Philippines' Duterte sworn in as president; promises to follow rule of law

By Andrew V. Pestano
Rodrigo Duterte, a controversial figure, was sworn in as president of the Philippines on Thursday. Duterte, 71, who served as the mayor of Davao City for 22 years, ran on an anti-crime platform that appeals to the country's upper and middle classes who fear rising criminality. Photo courtesy of Rodrigo Duterte
Rodrigo Duterte, a controversial figure, was sworn in as president of the Philippines on Thursday. Duterte, 71, who served as the mayor of Davao City for 22 years, ran on an anti-crime platform that appeals to the country's upper and middle classes who fear rising criminality. Photo courtesy of Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, June 30 (UPI) -- The so-called "Punisher," Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as president of the Philippines on Thursday in a Manila ceremony where he promised to follow the rule of law.

Duterte ran for president on an anti-crime and anti-corruption campaign. He gained international recognition for promoting the intentional lethal use of force. He promised to pay bounties to police and military officials for turning in drug lords "dead or alive," and made controversial comments about the 1989 rape and murder of an Australian missionary.

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Earlier this month, Duterte said there was justification for the killing of corrupt journalists days after a Manila crime reporter was shot dead. Duterte's comments were sharply condemned by the United Nations.

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Duterte chose to hold a small ceremony at the Malacanang Palace, unlike previous traditional inauguration celebrations. In an address, he highlighted the Philippines' problems with corruption, drugs, crime and lack of trust in government.

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"Change must start with us and in us. We have become our own worst enemies, and we must have the courage and the will to change ourselves," Duterte said. "I know that there are those who do not approve of my methods of fighting criminality ... In response, let me say this: I have seen how corruption bled government of funds. I have seen how illegal drugs destroy individuals and ruin families' relationships."

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Duterte suggested he would work within the rule of law to carry out his efforts against crime.

"I know the limits of the power and authority of the president. I know what is legal and what is not. My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising," he said.

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