Philippines president Duterte threatens to use emergency rule ‘to the hilt’

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte spoke after returning from South Korea (AP) Credit: AP/Press Association Images

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to use emergency powers and enforce them “to the hilt” to deal with relentless criticism over his human rights record and various other controversies.

Mr Duterte, who placed the southern third of the archipelago nation last year under martial law to battle Muslim militants, said “there’s no difference actually between martial law and a declaration of national emergency”.

He added: “Even with this meagre emergency power, I will use it to the hilt (to) put things in order.”

Mr Duterte has threatened before to resort to authoritarian rule nationwide if lawlessness worsens.

In a late-night conference after his arrival from a trip to South Korea, the president warned that he would place problematic government agencies under his office so he could supervise them directly.

He has publicly sacked several officials for alleged corruption, excessive foreign trips and other unspecified wrongdoings.

“I’m warning all of you criminals, all, in government or outside of it. I will make radical changes in the days to come,” he said.

“For those offices which could no longer be put under control, I will place you under the office of the president. I’ll be the one you’ll face every day.”

It is unclear what triggered the volatile leader’s latest outburst.

The 73-year-old former city mayor drew widespread condemnation at home after he kissed a married Filipina on the lips in front of thousands of Filipino workers in a town hall meeting in Seoul.

He has repeatedly lashed out at US and European officials, UN rights experts and watchdogs for raising alarm over his bloody crackdown against illegal drugs.

His administration has also been blamed for rising inflation after it pushed through with a government tax reform package and for being soft on China in South China Sea disputes.