Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, best known in recent years for his horrific war on drugs, is now advancing a war on smuggling by destroying dozens of luxury vehicles seized by the country’s customs officers.
Among a fleet destroyed at Port Irene in recent days were 68 cars and eight motorbikes, including vehicles by Porsche, Lamborghini and Mercedes Benz worth an estimated $7.3 million, as the firebrand leader “renewed his commitment to fight smuggling,” a release said.
Duterte, whose crackdown on alleged drug dealers includes their frequent summary execution by death squads, says the vehicles had to be destroyed as they were set to be sold illegally.
Duterte said in a release that he wanted a create an environment where business could thrive — something that could only be done by destroying vehicles gained illegally, even if corruption itself was not yet fully eradicated.
President Rodrigo Duterte leads the inspection of contraband luxury vehicles before they were destroyed at Port Irene in Sta. Ana, Cagayan on July 30, 2018. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO
“(Y)ou have to show to the world that you have a viable place of investment and business,” he said. “And the only way to show it is that you are productive and that you have the economy to absorb the productivity of the population.”
“You know, before a place can really be developed or a viable place to do business, you have to establish first law and order. You allow government to work in this area, establish economic centers, make it productive, make it safe, make the buildings, the structures fire-free. No attack, no killing,” he added.
A bulldozer crushes luxury vehicles at a ceremony at the customs yard in Manila on February 6, 2018, after they were seized for being smuggled illegally. TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images
Duterte had previously destroyed a fleet of 14 luxury vehicles in February, saying they were set to be consigned to non-existent owners and, once in the country, sold on. Some 800 vehicles in total have recently been seized.
The vehicles from both round-ups — or, what remains of them — will be used to construct a three-storey “Monument of Change” in the Cagayan port area, in an effort to show foreigners that the country is on the path towards proper governance.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) walks with Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapena (R) as they inspect luxury vehicles prior to destroying them at a ceremony at the customs yard in Manila on February 6, 2018. TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images
The release also went on to mention the country’s war against communist rebels, with Duterte offering an apparent olive branch should they lay down their arms after negotiations.
“I don’t know what will happen to the talks,” the release says. “But if you guys want just maybe a place where you can work and earn money for your family for their education, you might do well just to talk to anybody even to the military and the police about how we can sort it out among ourselves. War would bring us nothing.”
The haul was worth more than £3 million and included a Lamborghini, Porsche, Mercedes Benz and Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Duterte, known for his tough anti-crime policies, was there to witness the destruction and during a speech afterwards, he said it was necessary "to show to the world that we have a viable place of investment and business."