Duterte Warns of 'Revolutionary Gov't'

MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- The Philippine president, in his latest outburst against critics, warned that he would declare a "revolutionary government" and arrest his detractors if he he's pushed against the wall.

Duterte made the threat late Thursday in a speech where he expressed exasperation with criticism even while he's trying to fight irregularities. Duterte has been known for provocative remarks, which his spokesmen have often played down as hyperbole.

"I have enough problems with criminality, drugs, rebellion and all, but if you push me to the extreme, I will declare the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and I will arrest all of you," Duterte said, adding he's willing to take the risk for such bold options. "I am willing to be hanged. I'm willing to die."

Duterte fumed while discussing how an opposition senator supposedly advised him to be careful with a presidential order to review major government contracts to ensure there were no onerous provisions detrimental to the country.

"You think that I will allow it just because we cannot impair the obligation of our contracts?" asked Duterte, a former government prosecutor who rose to the presidency in 2016 on a promise to combat corruption and crimes in six months.

Duterte's threat drew concerns from pro-democracy and human rights advocates.

Former Commission on Human Rights chairwoman Loretta Ann Rosales said the country's 1987 constitution guarantees freedom of speech, including criticism of officials. She said that habeas corpus, which requires a state to justify a citizen's detention, can only be suspended during specific contingencies such as war or dictatorship.

"The president should know that employing tactics from the Marcos playbook does not end well," Rosales said, referring to Ferdinand Marcos, the late Philippine dictator who was ousted in a 1986 "people power" revolt.

Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros said Duterte should confront China for its increasingly aggressive actions in the disputed South China sea instead of threatening civil liberties. "Instead of standing up to China's aggression, President Duterte threatens his own people with warrantless arrests and war," Hontiveros said.

Duterte acknowledged the term "revolutionary government" wasn't clearly defined, but said that it "usually happens when there is a military coup or (the) president goes against his own government."

Known for his expletives-laced speeches, Duterte has been especially sensitive to criticism of his crackdown on illegal drugs, which has left more than 5,000 people dead in clashes police say ensued when suspects fought back and threatened law enforcers. Western governments and human rights groups have expressed alarm over the killings and sought an independent investigation.

Duterte has denied ordering extrajudicial killings but has repeatedly threatened drug dealers with death.

The Supreme Court has ordered the government, through the solicitor general, to provide copies of police records of anti-drugs operations and drug-linked deaths to the court and two non-government rights groups. The ruling was praised by human rights advocates as a step that could help determine if law enforcers committed atrocities.

(KA)