Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in Thursday as president of the Philippines, with some hoping his maverick style will energize the country, but others fearing he will undercut one of Asia's liveliest democracies amid threats to kill criminals en masse. The 71-year-old former prosecutor and longtime mayor of southern Davao city won a resounding victory in May's elections. Duterte, who begins a six-year term as president, captured attention with promises to cleanse the nation of criminals and government crooks within six months—an audacious pledge that was welcomed by many crime-weary Filipinos, but alarmed human rights watchdogs and the influential Roman Catholic church, the AP reports.
Shortly after Duterte's election win, policemen launched an anti-drug crackdown under his name, leaving dozens of drug-dealing suspects dead in gunfights with police or in mysterious circumstances. Days before his swearing in, Duterte was threatening criminals with death if they wouldn't reform. "If you destroy my country, I will kill you," he said during the last flag-raising ceremony he presided as mayor in Davao city this week. The Wall Street Journal reports that Duterte has chosen former Davao police chief Ronald Dela Rosa to head the national police force. Duterte's targets for wiping out crime can be reached and drug suspects "will be given the right to remain silent—forever," Dela Rosa recently told reporters. (Manny Pacquiao won a Senate seat in the same election.)