Before Duterte was the Philippines’ president, he was ‘the Death Squad mayor’

DAVAO, Philippines — People here love to tell stories about the man they call “our mayor.”

One time, when a tourist ignored no-smoking rules, our mayor stormed a restaurant with a revolver and forced him to eat the cigarette butt. Our mayor patrolled the streets on his motorcycle. Our mayor saved us from thugs.

The mayor they speak of is Rodrigo Duterte, who ran this coastal city on the island of Mindanao, in the southern Philippines, for more than two decades before he was elected president this spring.

Since taking power in Manila,  Duterte has made international headlines for all the wrong reasons. His call to “kill all” the country’s criminals has unleashed an extraordinary wave of violence, with police fatally shooting more than a thousand suspects and plainclothes assassins dumping an even greater number of bodies on the streets.

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