Defend freedom, Philippines' Aquino says ahead of Duterte handover

 12 Jun 2016 - 8:51

Defend freedom, Philippines' Aquino says ahead of Duterte handover
President Benigno Aquino salutes the honour guard during the Independence Day celebration, two weeks before Aquino relinguishes his post to newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte (not pictured) in Manila,Philippines June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro


Manila: Philippine leader Benigno Aquino called on his countrymen Sunday to fight attempts to take away their freedoms as he prepared to hand over power to president-elect Rodrigo Duterte, who has vowed to kill tens of thousands of criminals.

Duterte won last month's elections in a landslide largely on a pledge to suppress what he said was rampant crime, and has since vowed to award large bounties to police as well as civilians who kill drug dealers.

Speaking on the 118th anniversary of the country's declaration of independence from Spanish colonial rule, Aquino said Filipinos must prevent a repeat of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos' 20-year rule.

"Let us remember that just a generation ago, the Philippine government itself was the one suppressing the freedom of our fellow Filipinos," Aquino told foreign diplomats at a formal reception.

"A fellow Filipino deprived us of our freedoms. It means that if we are not vigilant, this can happen again," Aquino added.

Aquino had warned last month during the election campaign that Duterte, the then frontrunner in the race to replace him as leader, carried similar dangers to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Duterte has promised to end crime within six months of his presidency by ordering security forces to kill tens of thousands of suspected criminals, then pardon himself if he is found guilty of mass murder.

Duterte, who takes office on June 30, has been accused of running vigilante squads that have killed more than 1,000 suspected criminals in the southern city of Davao where he has been the long-time mayor.

At times he has boasted about his involvement -- but on other occasions denied any links to the vigilantes.

Duterte has also warned that as president he will shut down Congress and establish a revolutionary government if lawmakers do not endorse his policies.

During the election Marcos' son and namesake narrowly lost the separate vice presidential contest.

The popular Aquino was barred from seeking a second term by the post-Marcos constitution that limited presidencies to a single six-year term.

"Now that we're entering a new chapter in our history, let us not forget that freedom must be guarded and nurtured. We must strive to achieve and fight for all things that matter," Aquino said Sunday.

"All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing," he said, using a quote usually attributed to British statesman Edmund Burke.