Among his many duties, Foreign Minister Murray McCully gets to rub shoulders with some fairly noxious individuals.

Few come with as much bloodsoaked baggage as Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines president who made an unheralded stopover in Auckland after the Apec summit in Peru.

Duterte only left the confines of his hotel to smile for selfies with the Filipino community, who made him feel at home. But he did squeeze in a meeting with McCully, who came away mightily impressed with the strongman.

The president, McCully remarked, was "warm, courteous, and actually quite charming."


The 71-year-old who so touched McCully has stirred intense controversy for a deadly drug war implemented after he won a landslide election in June.

In less than six months, some 3,600 suspected dealers and addicts have been killed in the Philippines. 'Dirty Harry' Duterte - a handle he got as Mayor of Davao - has vowed to wipe out "every last one," and even said he would kill his own children if they took drugs.

He encouraged citizens to fightback if threatened by dealers: "Shoot him and I'll give you a medal." Critics want to put him before the International Criminal Court.

His undiplomatic remarks strike a chord at home and ruffle feathers abroad. He famously called Barack Obama "son of a whore", revels in his nickname "The Punisher" and managed to confuse New Zealand with Australia while he was staying in town.

Duterte, ever the comic, suggested he might want to live here. The character test could pose a problem. But then again his chum McCully might provide a reference.