The threat of presidential assassination

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If I become President, it would be bloody because we’ll order the killing of all criminals, ang mga durugista at [narcotics offenders and]drug lords.
— Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte, in February

WELL, he warned us.

And now the threat of a bloody war on crime looks more and more real. No less than incoming President Rodrigo Duterte has offered bounties of P5 million for drug lords captured or killed, with lesser amounts for lower-ranking syndicate members.

In response, narcotics honchos are reportedly putting up a bounty of P50 million for Duterte to be assassinated—the first money-backed threat against the leader of an Asian nation.


Also threatened with the same price on his head is incoming Philippine National Police Chief Ronald de la Rosa, who had challenged narco-kings brandishing assassination threats to “bring it on.”

So now, the war on crime has imposed on Filipinos the unprecedented threat of presidential assassination with its attendant risks, uncertainty, and potential shock, instability, and political and economic fallout.

At every public event and even in Palace seclusion, Duterte could be targeted, possibly by some of the most fearsome killers money can buy. And as assassinations elsewhere have demonstrated, even the toughest, most advanced presidential security in the world is not totally impregnable.

American President John F. Kennedy in 1963. South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee in 1979. Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat in 1981. Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984. Her son, also Indian PM, Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993. Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

Plus the failed attempts to kill Pope St. John Paul II and US President Ronald Reagan, both shot in 1981.

As for attempted assassinations in the Philippines, there were the attacks on then-Pope Paul VI in 1970 by a deranged Brazilian artist, and on then-First Lady Imelda Marcos in Dec. 1972—just three months after martial law was imposed.

Plainly, if the most disciplined and best-trained and -equipped security forces in the world could not protect Kennedy, Park, the Gandhis, and Rabin, how might the PNP and the Presidential Security Group fare against master assassins targeting Duterte?

Can assassins be stopped?

With the drug lords apparently taking up PNP Chief de la Rosa’s challenge, there is now the paramount imperative to protect him and President Duterte, and reduce their vulnerabilities to assassins.

Duterte may have to rethink his planned frequent travel between Manila and Davao. Besides the threat of bombs on board, presidential flights face the threat of portable surface-to-air missiles.

On the black market, the American-made Stinger costs perhaps double or triple its list price of $38,000. Even at, say, $120,000 a piece, one-third of the P50-million bounty would fetch three Stingers. No presidential plane or chopper would be safe with such projectiles loose in the country.

Close-in bodyguards themselves would need to be meticulously vetted. Indira Gandhi and Sadat were both killed by their own troops, and Park by his own chief of intelligence and security.

Mingling with crowds might also have to be a no-no. It nearly cost John Paul II his life, forcing the Vatican to limit papal movements, and devise the bulletproof Popemobile.

Perhaps hardest to guard against are suicide bombers willing to die for a purportedly righteous cause or the right price. Women strapped with explosives killed Rajiv Gandhi and Premadasa Ranasinghe.

Given the impossibility of countering every possible threat, it would not be surprising if there are moves to eliminate the paymasters offering bounties for their heads. Kill the drug lords offering P100 million, and would-be assassins may lose pecuniary interest.

Since the narco-kings have, in effect, put a gun to the heads of the President and the PNP chief, killing the hoods may be seen by Filipinos as an act of self-defense.

Thus, the reputed backers of the Duterte and de la Rosa killer contracts may have signed their own death warrants. Or maybe they think they’re good as dead, since they are likely to be eliminated, even in prison, if they lose their narco-clout.

Bottom line: With the rapidly intensifying threats of bloodletting, the country looks set to face unprecedented uncertainty in the national leadership, perhaps just as worrisome as having cancer-afflicted Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago as head of state.

What if …

Security planning and crisis management would necessarily have to ponder the possibility of President Duterte being gravely wounded or even killed.

If that happens, what’s the country to do?

Vice President Leni Robredo would be constitutionally empowered to take over while Duterte is incapacitated or if he is liquidated.

That, of course, drastically changes the political landscape, with the collapsed Liberal Party and the camp of outgoing President Benigno Aquino 3rd probably getting another lease on life.

On the other hand, the ascendant Duterte-led regime may not so easily give up power, especially if Robredo is seen as unable to continue the fight against crime, or her Liberal Party cohorts are tarred by syndicate links.

After all, it was under Aquino that crime tripled from 324,083 incidents in 2010 to more than a million a year since 2013—a surge that could only have been engineered by syndicates, not individual criminals.

And don’t forget the reported belief in the Duterte camp that the LP cheated Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. of the vice presidency.

In addition to igniting intense political rivalries, assassination of the most staunchly defended person in the country would make everyone else fear the drug lords even more; if they can eliminate the President, who’s safe?

No doubt about it: the coming six years brings an unprecedented level of risk and possible carnage, as the anti-crime crusaders led by President Duterte strike at the lawless groups that have exploded under Aquino.

God have mercy on the Philippines.

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20 Comments

  1. Rudi Miranda on

    Thank you for the forewarning to the camp of Duterte and the Filipinos, but you forgot to mention the crooks in the corporate boardrooms in the city financial centers which will use deception rather than naked force, and perhaps much dangerous than the drug lords and politicians. Duterte is a magnet to all sorts of evil, but how I wish he will have the chance to defeat them before his demise. Persons who knows to decide is no stranger to death, Duterte knows it.

  2. Building containing druglords at Bilibid prison caught fire and burn down due to electrical fault. No one survives…

  3. dio san pedro on

    No drug dealer still in the Philippines has or will ever offer a bounty of such kind. This is the perfect Duterte strategy to start the killings. This time in self-defense.

  4. Juan T. Delacruz on

    I also have the feeling that Duterte will not complete his 6 years term and most likely, he will die while in office not by assassination but by something else. His war on drug campaign is much bigger than anticipated and there are politicians involved in these illegal drug business. I was shock to find out that some of PNoys cabinet members are “Padrinos” of drug lords. A fired PDEA agent have revealed that the Director of PDEA, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, is the biggest re-seller of confiscated drugs and certain person in PNoy’s cabinet named OCHOA was mentioned as well.

    Back to Duterte, he will be well protected while serving the people and his beloved country. He will die of massive heart attack because of too much VIAGRA intake at short intervals. He will be once again, capture the headline news, not because the mortician cannot erase the smile off his face and he died happy, but because of what he has accomplished in a short period of his Presidency.

  5. Eto ay isang mind conditioning sa isipan ng tanga at bobong mga Filipino,to justify the use of 7,000 military ang pilice force on their side. This is like what marcos and enrile did,they make their own bombing and paid rallies , to justify that commmunist is growing and there is a lot of bombing in the city…If you are the president, you can easily eliminated all those drug lords, silently using all the intelligence agensy of the govt.Kunwari lang eto at palabas,,dahil nasanay siya sa Davao na binebeybi..Ma DRAMA si duterte at anak na si Inday..at lam niya ang pilipino ay mahilig sa DRAMA sa kapapanuod ng Tele Novela..What a shit mayor this one..Dont talk too much…Just do it..just deliver..alam niya di siya makaka deliver kaya kung sino sino at tinitira,,yung kaya lang niya,,SIMBAHANG KATOLIKO,,pero yung mga MUSLIM, na abu sayyaf, MNLF, etc..di niya mamura,,kasi may kalalagyan siya,,Mabait kasi ang katoliko,,kaya binabastos niya…at alam niya duwag ang mga katoliko..di ba siya niya non,,siya a half muslim,,kaya sa kampanya niya ay kaharap niya muslim,,sumisigaw syang “ALLAH AKBAR”! pag communista kaharap naman..”MABUHAY ANG NPA!..ano klaseng presidente eto? hindi drug lords ang titira sa kanya ,,dahil lilipat lang ng ibang bansa yan…ang titira sa kanya ay militar, pag napuno na sa bunganga niya,,,DIVIDE at RULE ang taktika niya,,at pag kausap mo naman ay panay mura ang lalabas,,kasi yun ang gusto marinig ng TANGA at BOBO..ikaw, TANGA AT BOBO ka ba? na madaling maniwala? o FANATIKO ka,,ng Igkesis ni Duterte?

  6. It’s not the druglords. It’s the yellow turds. Pinapakalat na drug lord para di sila masisi. Tuloy tuloy ang Plan B.

  7. Ignacio Balbutin on

    hahaha, woww what a grim picture of the country you are painting here. Who is afraid of those drug pushers. With this threat, the incoming President should order an assault in the bilibid prison as he said in the media. It must be done immediately and the muntinlupa bilibid prison to be transferred to an inhabited islands where outside contact will be impossible and develop this Muntinlupa site. Maybe make it a housing area for the poor, a clean, discipline housing area

  8. Good work mr. Saludo… DU30 for now is the new Filipino hope. I am worried about assasination, knowing bad surpassed the good.

    Cyndicate is the one always attack to propel illegal habbit.

  9. Maribel Calanda on

    The President-elect is a good judge of character. He knows the drug lords are out there to enrich themselves forever. I am happy that someone really concern for the future of our children and for the entire nation has emerged as a leader. We really should pray for our country. Assassination should be directed to big-time LP MEMBERS instead who deprived Yolanda victims of donations from generous countries abroad. The Pope from afar really took effort to visit the poor in that typhoon-stricken place. LP really misused public funds to perpetuate themselves in power which was obviously seen in the just concluded election by frustrating the people’s will. Robredo, the great hypocrite is always dumb to her party’s dirty tricks. The President-elect should really be careful. I am glad that he did not bite Robredo’s deceitful ways. God bless our President-elect, our country and our people.

    • Why did say Robredo is a hypocrite ? Have you met her ? Do you know her accomplishments ? She was voted as the VP of our country. Her trust rating is above 45 percent. I just is having a hard time why you do not like Leni.

  10. There are 3 ways Duterte to be out: First, as you stated, by assassination but he knows this that it why he has close in security and plans to stay in Davao to avoid assassination. Second : medical reason. In one of the interviews, he stated that he might not complete his 6 year term. He knows something we do not know. Third: by people power. His remedy, he appointed retired military officer in his cabinet. My opinion, one of these scenarios will happen in 6 years unless God will let him work his 6 year term. Leni Robredo is going to be our president sooner than later. I pray that Duterte completes all his promises before he go.

  11. jeff jaramillo on

    The Aquino administration allowed the drug trade to grow 100 fold.

    Should the new administration execute all of these drug traders, blame not on Duterte but to Aquino. It was Aquino who created all of these lawlessness.

  12. Taking Mexico as an example, assassination in that country is very common. Mexico is just a little bit ahead as compared to this nation in killings. Sure enough, there will be a blood bath from the super rich drug lords to an aggressive president and police chief. Each party has a life to lose, I do not like what I see in the future. Drugs has to stop. It is killing our children. Only Duterte is the answer. Pnoy is a weakling and so are all liberal party candidates. I pray Duterte to succeed.

  13. DDu30 has made himself a target because he stressed extra-judicial — and Du30 declared war beyond the boundaries with his loud pronouncements that he will null out the drug lords without regards to due process. The drug lords knew the boundaries defined by Pilipinas laws but Du30 said “…ignore laws”/ Du30 added he will strike when he feels like it is time no matter what Supreme Court and Kongreso Pilipinas says. Street war — una-unahan lang. As Bato says… “Bring It On!!”

  14. Let’s get real here: Those drug kingpins can offer bounty even in billion pesos or kamotes but how the assassin will collect his bounty. It’s a criminal world and they don’t follow the rule of law. So he will be assassinated too on the spot and… Goodbye Fool!
    It’s just publicity and media is buying it.

    • Totoo yan, kitang-kita maliwanag pa sa sikat ng araw or pag pinapatay ng LP si Duterte isisisi sa mga drug lord, eh di bida na uli ang LP. Parang pelikula lang Malacanyang has fallen.

    • Fully agree. So why can’t the media just help out by writing about this angle to dissuade would-be takers of the bounty offer. Rather than writing about doomsday scenarios.

  15. P.Akialamiro on

    Once and for all, the protest of BBM must be resolved ASAP in fairness to everyone. God forbids, whatever happens to Du30, the person ‘righfully’ elected by the people will have to take over. Otherwise, as appropriately stated: “God have mercy on the Philippines.”