Even before Philippines president-elect Rodrigo Duterte told citizens he would give a medal to anyone who shot dead a drug dealer in a national address at the weekend, the bodies were starting to pile up.

But since that speech, at least five people allegedly connected to the drug trade as well as an indeterminate number of low level pushers have been exterminated by street assassins.

Unlike the hundreds of petty criminals and drug pushers who have "involuntarily disappeared" at the hands of Duterte's death squads, these killings seem to have been undertaken by ordinary citizens.

The Davao Death Squad or DDS, is a vigilante group active in Davao City on Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines.


It's where "Dirty Duterte" (a play on Dirty Harry rather than a corruption reference) served as mayor for 22 years before he won the presidential election by a landslide last month.

Human rights groups estimate the DDS was responsible for the murders or disappearances of between 1020 and 1040 people between 1998 and 2008.

Statistics become murky after that date because by then, halfway through Mayor Duterte's rule, crime-weary residents had embraced what is euphemistically called his "zero-tolerance" policy.

Under this policy, Davao City went from "murder capital of the Philippines" to "the fourth safest city in Asia". He told the public he could do the same for the country.

It won him the election.

Rodrigo Duterte answers questions from the media in Manila, Philippines. Photo / AP
Rodrigo Duterte answers questions from the media in Manila, Philippines. Photo / AP

During his presidential campaign, the 71-year-old vowed to kill more than a hundred thousand alleged criminals and dump their bodies in Manila Bay within six months of taking office (he is due to be inaugurated on June 30).

Since Duterte's win, a wave of executions of alleged criminals, carried out both by vigilantes and the police, has swept the country.

To his credit, he did warn the public exactly what he was going to do. And, like Donald Trump, with whom he has been compared, Duterte made no apologies for encouraging vigilantism. In fact, he would pay the vigilantes (another initiative that wouldn't look out of place in Trump's world).

On May 31, Duterte announced he would pay huge bounties in exchange for every person killed who had connections to the drug trade and the higher the target's rank, the bigger the reward.

Duterte has promised three million pesos (around $NZ94,000) for every "drug lord", two million pesos ($NZ62,500) for those in charge of distribution, one million pesos ($NZ31,000) for "syndicate members" and 50,000 pesos ($NZ1500) for every "ordinary" drug peddler killed.

Duterte further stated that he would begin making payments for those killed prior to taking office, stating that he had enough money left in his campaign funds to pay for "100 persons dead."

He explicitly included in his bounty offer a reward for lives of inmates within the prison system who were alleged to be dealing drugs.

The new wave of execution victims were from three separate provinces but shared had one thing in common - they were all suspected of involvement in the illegal drug trade.

In Negros Occidental, an alleged drug supplier in the northern part of the province was killed by two motorcycle-riding men near Calatrava.

Another victim, Habib Into, 49, was on San Carlos City's list of most wanted criminals. He was found with multiple gunshot wounds. Police said they found 10g of shabu (ice) and more than 20,000 pesos near his body.

Hours later, a body was dumped in an area of Talisay City known as Barangay Zone 15 by unidentified men. Police said Jeffrey Buencuchillo, 33, had been bound and shot multiple times. His hands had also been cut off.

The killers had left a card inscribed with the chilling message: "I am a member of Akyat Bahay (a crime gang), a thief, an addict. Don't follow my example because you will be killed next."

In Negros Oriental, a lawyer was shot dead by two men on motorbikes as he rode his bicycle to visit a client at a retirement home in Barangay Looc, Dumaguete City just after 10am.

Police said Rex Agan Perewperew, 38, had been under investigation for his alleged role in a drug syndicate, at the time of his murder.

In Iloilo, two men with criminal records were found shot to death at separate locations.

The body of Sherwin Taasan, 38, was found by a village watchman at around 5.45am just outside Iloilo City. According to the local police chief, Taasan, a convicted bag snatcher and one-time drug addict, had been shot six times in the head.

The other Iloilo City man, 33-year-old Lou Facto, was found dead at about 3am in the Villa Avalo District. His hands were tied behind his back with a packing tape and he had been shot up to 11 times.

Police said Facto had recently been freed after having been detained in connection with a drugs and firearms case.

More killings can be expected. Lots of them.

In a nationally televised speech late Saturday, Rodrigo Duterte told a huge crowd in the southern city of Davao that Filipinos who help him battle crime will be rewarded.

"Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun - you have my support," Duterte told a huge crowd gathered at Davao in a nationally televised speech on Saturday.

"If a drug dealer resists arrest or refuses to be brought to a police station and threatens a citizen with a gun or a knife, you can kill him. Shoot him and I'll give you a medal."