“I know that there are those who do not approve of my methods of fighting criminality,” Rodrigo Duterte announced in his first speech after being sworn in as president of the Philippines on June 30, 2016. Despite having been mayor of the war-torn city of Davao for more than two decades, the new president was a political outsider, having narrowly secured his victory after a late turnaround in the polls. In his inaugural address, he was referring to criticism and accusations that had hounded him throughout the campaign—that in his confrontations with a communist insurgency, Islamist rebellion, and illegal drug epidemic, he had ordered the killing of hundreds of suspected criminals and even admitted to shooting some of them personally:

“They say that my methods are unorthodox and verge on the illegal. In response, let me say this: I have seen how corruption...

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