“The only reason there is peace and order in Davao is because of me,” he told Time, saying he personally oversaw policing in his tenure by “thrashing” drunken cops, while also giving officers groceries as an incentive not to accept bribes. He said he personally told rebel groups he would kill them if they came into the city, and ordered his officers to kill people who resisted arrest.
Duterte would patrol the city on a motorcycle or undercover as a taxi driver. He also set up closed-circuit television cameras across Davao, banned the sale of liquor from 1 a.m. until 8 a.m., and implemented strict speed limits.
Time also wrote:
By the early 1990s, the threat within Davao from communist rebels and Muslim guerrillas had faded. Duterte’s vigilance had not. Urchins caught picking pockets have got beatings with a belt or a cow’s tail from the mayor himself, often in City Hall. Rich kids who hot-rodded down the city streets were warned that they’d be paraded naked around town. And throughout, he let it be known that he would never relent in his fight against rapists, petty thieves and particularly drug pushers. “If you sell drugs to destroy other people’s lives,” he threatened, “I can be brutal.”
That brutality at times meant using so-called “death squads,” extrajudicial groups that have allegedly killed thousands of people during Duterte’s tenure. In a 2009 report, the Human Rights Watch said that most victims of the killings are alleged drug dealers, petty criminals, and street children who may have connections to gangs.
Duterte proudly acknowledges helping kill 1,700 criminals through these groups. “How do you think I did it?” he said in a speech last May. “How did I reach that title among the world’s safest cities? Kill them all.”
Even on the campaign trail, he said he would dump the bodies of criminals in Manila Bay if he were elected president, promising to end crime in the country in six months by killing up to 100,000 more criminals. “All of you who are into drugs, you sons of bitches, I will really kill you,” he said this month. “I have no patience, I have no middle ground, either you kill me or I will kill you idiots.”
Duterte, who was elected seven times as Davao mayor, is a man of apparent contradictions. While he has run almost entirely a law-and-order campaign, a political opponent accused him of not declaring $51 million, allegedly accumulated from the salaries of 11,000 government workers that do not exist. He has been criticized heavily on the campaign trail for kissing women and being a womanizer, yet he has been a consistent advocate for women’s rights while he was mayor. He’s joked about the rape and murder of an Australian missionary in 1988 in his city, but he also has said he was sexually abused by a priest when he was younger.
And while his no-tolerance policies on crime and controversial public statements would suggest otherwise, during his time as mayor he helped institute several social policies that were progressive firsts in the Philippines. Davao was the first city to ban smoking in public (Duterte once forced a tourist to eat a cigarette butt for refusing to follow the ban). It was also the first city to create a 9-1-1 phone line and call center that worked effectively.