MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine presidential hopeful Rodrigo Duterte had the chance to outline his economic policy agenda before scores of big businessmen on Wednesday, but chose instead to talk about drugs, shootings and his libido.
Duterte’s address to the Makati Business Club, the premier grouping of CEOs and corporate bigwigs in the Philippines, had been anticipated as a roll-out of his economic platform but his unscripted, 80-minute speech focused more on tackling rampaging crime and colorful anecdotes from his past.
It was the kind of talk that has catapulted the maverick mayor of the southern city of Davao into the lead in opinion polls, winning over Filipinos with a promise of a nationwide war against drugs and lawlessness.
“I assure you under my leadership you will feel the difference in six months,” he said, dressed in corduroy jeans and a short-sleeved, open-neck shirt. By contrast, the mainly male listeners were dressed formally, in a jacket and tie or in the traditional Filipino barong.
“Sometimes I am being castigated for being brutal and honest. It will be a bloody war ... As for the bleeding hearts who criticize me for talking about bloodshed and gory things, I am just (saying) what I have experienced.”
Duterte has been chided for allowing a spree of vigilante killings in Davao and critics fear he could let them happen on a larger scale as president.
The Philippines goes to the polls on May 9. Two surveys this week put Duterte between seven and 12 percentage points ahead of his nearest rival, Grace Poe.
Duterte said he plans to double salaries of security forces to stop them being lured by graft and vowed to shield them from investigations by human rights groups and corruption watchdogs while they battle criminal gangs.
“I will use the military and the police to go out and arrest them, hunt for them and if they offer a violent resistance ...I will simply say, ‘kill them all so we can finish this problem’,” he said.
Duterte said he wanted to prioritize education, complete infrastructure projects planned or underway and find a solution to chronic Manila traffic snarl-ups.
He said had no qualms about using some policies of incumbent President Benigno Aquino and former leader Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
“I will not be ashamed to copy. Whatever works, let us continue,” he said.
He also talked about being sexually active at 71 and joked that among businessmen, he should not be the only one accused of being a womanizer. The audience laughed and applauded.
Duterte promised he would fight for the country to do what it wants in its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea and took aim at Western powers for allowing Beijing to construct man-made islands in its waters.
Maritime conflict, he said, was not an option.
“We cannot go to war. It will be slaughter.”
Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan