Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is known for his colorful language and his short fuse, said he would stop cursing after God told him so.
Arriving in his home city of Davao after a trip to Japan, Rodrigo Duterte said God gave him an ultimatum on the plane.
He said that late at night while everyone was snoring on a flight back to the Philippines, he had heard a voice that said if he didn’t stop swearing: “I will bring this plane down now.”
“I heard a voice telling me to stop swearing or the plane will crash in mid-air, and so I promised to stop,” Rodrigo Duterte told reporters at the airport.
His blunt speaking, often directed at the West, has contributed to his popularity at home.
All were responses to criticisms of his bloody war on drugs, that has seen thousands of alleged drug dealers and users killed by police and vigilante groups.
Rodrigo Duterte said he had promised God he would not “express slang, cuss words and everything”, and said a “promise to God is a promise to the Filipino people”.
However, he suggested his promise might have its limits. Whether he will stick to not swearing when talking about the US, EU or arch political foe Senator Leila de Lima, will depend on timing, local media quoted him as saying.
Like most Filipinos, Rodrigo Duterte is Roman Catholic, although he has boasted about his womanizing and called the Pope a “son of a whore” for causing traffic jams during his visit.
Rodrigo Duterte has spoken about being abused by an American priest as a child, saying that informed his political views.
According to a former death squad member, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the murder of political opponents while mayor of Davao.
During a Senate hearing, Edgar Matobato revealed he and others killed about 1,000 people over a 25-year period.
Edgar Matobato, 57, gave gruesome details of gangland-style hits, including feeding one victim to a crocodile.
Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman rejected the allegations, saying investigations into his time as mayor had gone nowhere.
Edgar Matobato said he was a member of the Davao Death Squad, a notorious vigilante group allegedly responsible for hundreds of killings.
He said: “Our job was to kill criminals like drug pushers, rapists, snatchers.”
Edgar Matobato also claimed that Rodrigo Duterte’s opponents were targeted too, including four bodyguards of a local rival for mayor, Prospero Nograles.
Victims would be shot or strangled, he said, with some disemboweled and dumped into the sea so fish could eat them.
He told the Senate panel he went from a witness protection program into hiding when Rodrigo Duterte became president, fearing for his life.
Edgar Matobato also alleged Rodrigo Duterte ordered the bombing of a mosque in retaliation for an attack on Davao Cathedral in 1993.
On this claim Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman, Martin Andanar, said: “I don’t think he is capable of giving those orders.”
Martin Andanar said the country’s Commission on Human Rights had failed to even prove the existence of the Davao Death Squad.
Prospero Nograles’ son Karlo, a Davao city representative, denied Eduardo Matobato’s account relating to his father’s bodyguards.
“I don’t know what this guy is talking about.
“I can only suspect that this guy is being manipulated by some people to only serve their own selfish interests,” Karlo Nograles wrote on Facebook.
The woman leading the Senate inquiry into extra-judicial killings, Leila de Lima, is a strong critic of Rodrigo Duterte and has been accused by him of having links to the illegal drug trade, something she denies.
Rodrigo Duterte became mayor of Davao in 1988, and his tough stance saw crime rates plummet, an approach he has vowed to replicate at national level.
Since his election this year more than 3,000 drug users and dealers have been killed amid international alarm over human rights violations.
Rodrigo Duterte has dismissed concerns over his drugs policies, calling UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “a fool” and insulting President Barack Obama as, something he later said he regretted.
Rodrigo Duterte has been sworn in as the new president of the Philippines, after winning election in May.
The 71-year-old overthrew the political establishment at the polls, promising a “bloody war” on crime and corruption.
In his inaugural speech the controversial former mayor of Davao City promised to make sweeping changes to the country’s political system.
However, in a nod to his critics Rodrigo Duterte also insisted that he “knows the limits” of his power.
Rodrigo Duterte, who has barely left Davao in the south since his election win, took his oath at a small ceremony at the Malacanang Palace in Manila.
Photo Getty Images
Only state media were permitted to cover the event, but it was streamed live online.
Rodrigo Duterte told the audience he would tackle an “erosion of the people’s trust” in the leaders, the judiciary and public servants.
He added: “As a lawyer and a former prosecutor, I know the limits of the power and authority of the president. I know what is legal and what is not.”
“I know that there are those who do not approve of my methods of fighting criminality. They say that my methods are unorthodox and verge on the illegal.
“My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising. You mind your work and I will mind mine.”
Rodrigo Duterte also promised to honor international treaties and respect peace deals agreed with rebels at home.
The new vice-president, Leni Robredo, was sworn in at a separate ceremony in Quezon City, in the suburbs of Manila.
Both will both serve a single six-year term.
The two swearing-in ceremonies were being held separately for the first time in the Philippines, which local media attributed to Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to a opt for a relatively small event.
However, there is a notable political and personality gulf between the two leaders.
Leni Robredo, an anti-poverty campaigner and human rights lawyer, was sworn in by the chairman of the poorest ward of a district in her province, as well as the chairman of the ward in which her new office is located.
She won her new position by a wafer-thin margin against Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, the son of late former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose family has staged a remarkable political comeback since being toppled in 1986.
Leni Robredo is from the same Liberal Party as outgoing President Benigno Aquino III, who oversaw big improvements in economic growth and foreign investment.
Benigno Aquino had less success tackling endemic corruption and inequality, something Rodrigo Duterte has promised to change.