Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he’d prefer if police were to forget about capturing gaming-related kidnappers and instead just kill any foreigner who adbucts indebted casino gamblers.
On Wednesday, Duterte gave a speech at the opening of a Hong Kong-backed property financing firm in Manila, during which he addressed the alarming rise in the number of gaming-related kidnappings in the Philippines. Most of the victims and perpetrators of these crimes have turned out to be Chinese nationals.
Duterte said he would not “particularize” any one nation, but said “there are foreigners who come here to play their trade, lending money and if the debtor cannot pay, they kidnap and sometimes they ask for ransom.” Duterte added that he “will not hesitate even to tell your ambassador I killed your idiot citizen because he was f****** in my country … To me you are just another carcass.”
Duterte went on to say that the Philippine National Police would catch kidnappers “dead or alive. Preferably dead. Alive, I have to feed you. There’s a rice crisis in this country … One mouth less would be good for my country.”
Duterte has often issued such threats, including a profane rant this January in which he suggested the government “kidnap” and “torture” members of the Commission on Audit, who Duterte claimed were “making things difficult” by scrutinizing spending by government agencies.
While no auditors have yet come forward with claims of being tortured by the state, there have been thousands of extrajudicial killings since Duterte launched his infamous war on drugs in 2016. So casino kidnappers may choose to rein in their activity, even if only temporarily, rather than be the ones to test Duterte’s resolve.
While the casino kidnappers may be mostly Chinese, these criminals reportedly rely on a crew of current and former Philippine police and military officers to assist in the abduction and guarding of their victims. On Wednesday, Duterte warned rogue cops that “everybody dies in this world but you will go ahead first.”
Duterte also issued a general warning to Chinese entrepreneurs who set up businesses in the Philippines to “behave” and “obey the rules … your buildings should never serve as a haven for undocumented foreign workers.”
The Philippine government recently estimated that there are around 14k undocumented foreigners working for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO). Just this week, Philippine authorities shut down a major POGO service provider for allegedly failing to register for taxation purposes, throwing an estimated 8,100 workers — the overwhelming majority of them Chinese — out onto the street.