Rodrigo Duterte sworn in as Philippines president

‘The Punisher’ banned journalists from covering inauguration for first time since 1986

With a promise that "change is coming", Rodrigo Duterte has been sworn in as the Philippines 16th president after securing the office with a landslide win on a tough anti-crime ticket.

Known as “The Punisher” for his pledge to kill suspected drug dealers, Mr Duterte spoke in his inauguration speech of taking “wobbly steps”towards the future.

"Love of country, subordination of personal interests to the common good, concern and care for the helpless and the impoverished - these are among the lost and faded values that we seek to recover and revitalise as we commence our journey towards a better Philippines,"he said in a modest ceremony at the Malacanang Palace in Manila, the president's official residence.

Dozens of suspected drug dealers have been killed since Mr Duterte launched a crackdown on crime during his campaign, vowing to dump the bodies of dead pushers into Manila Bay.


“The ride will be rough. But come and join me just the same. Together, shoulder to shoulder, let us take the first wobbly steps in this quest,” he said.

In his speech, he said drugs were only symptoms of a deeper social malaise.

Mr Duterte is not a member of the quasi-feudal families that dominate the Philippines, and there are questions about whether it will be enough to protect him in Congress and the Senate, where he has few natural allies.

“Erosion of faith and trust in government - that is the real problem that confronts us. Resulting therefrom, I see the erosion of the people’s trust in our country’s leaders; the erosion of faith in our judicial system; the erosion of confidence in the capacity of our public servants to make the people’s lives better, safer and healthier,” he said.

For the first time since democracy was restored in 1986 after dictator Ferdinand Marcos was deposed, journalists were banned from covering the presidential inauguration and the press corps had to watch a live feed.

During his presidential campaign, he went after the media, asking a reporter about his wife’s vagina and saying journalists were “not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch.”

Reporters Without Borders responded with calls for journalists to boycott his coverage, and Mr Duterte has sworn not to speak to the media during his entire period in office.

Mr Duterte flew to Manila from his southern base of Davao for the inauguration ceremony where Benigno Aquino III formally handed over the seal of office in a ceremony which eschewed the usual banquet.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing