Philippines' cash-strapped cops cheer new crime-buster president

MANILA: The police force in Manila is so underfunded that officers say they have to buy their own bullets and it is not uncommon for funeral service cars to give cops a lift along to murder scenes because they have no vehicles of their own.

Enter Rodrigo Duterte, who won this week's presidential election in the Philippines on a single-issue campaign of crushing crime, corruption and drug abuse.

He has pledged to raise policing standards to the level of Davao, the once-lawless city in southern Mindanao, where he has been mayor for 22 years and the only one in the country that runs its own 911 emergency call service.

Duterte's message, unpolished and peppered with profanities, tapped into popular alarm over a drug-fuelled jump in crime. In 2012 the United Nations said the Philippines had the highest rate of methamphetamine, or "shabu", use in East Asia.

The US State Department said 2.1 percent of Flipinos aged 16 to 64 were using shabu, the main drug threat in the Philippines along with marijuana.

Reported crimes in the Philippines more than doubled from 319,441 cases in 2010, when President Benigno Aquino took office, to 675,816 last year, according to national police data.

Roughly half of those were serious crimes, and rape cases jumped 120 percent over this period.

Police officials say the figures overstate the problem because reporting of crimes has risen with the introduction of closed-circuit TV cameras in many urban areas and SMS messaging for filing complaints.

Still, Duterte says he intends to be a 'dictator' against forces of evil.

He told Reuters on the campaign trail five criminals should be killed a week and promised if he became president the fish in Manila Bay would grow fat on the bodies of all the "pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings" dumped there.

Rights group say death squads have operated with impunity in Davao, killing some 1,500 people since 1998. “Duterte Harry”, as he is known, denies ordering extrajudicial killings, but he doesn't condemn them.