Rodrigo Duterte, the former mayor of Davao City who drew the world’s attention with his controversial remarks against criminals, was sworn in as the 16th president of the Philippines on Thursday.
After taking the oath of office with one hand on the bible, Duterte, 71, in his short speech pledged to wage a “bloody war” against crime and also promised action on corruption.
He went on to say that these ills were only symptoms of a noxious social disease cutting into the moral fibre of society.
"I see the erosion of the people's trust in our country's leaders, the erosion of faith in our judicial system, the erosion of confidence in the capacity of our public servants to make the people's lives better, safer and healthier," Duterte said, promising to bring sweeping changes to Philippines political system.
He said he would give the specifics of his economic policies later.
Duterte inflicted a crushing defeat on the established politicians of the Philippines by securing a landslide victory in May’s election.
In the election campaign, Duterte slammed the country's political elite, convincing his voters of how previous governments failed to tackle poverty and inequality even when the economy was bounding ahead.
Duterte earned nicknames like “The Punisher” and “Duterte Harry” for his tough approach on crime and corruption.
"Forget the laws on human rights. If I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because I'd kill you," he said while addressing his supporters at the conclusion of his election campaign last month.
During his inaugural speech as president on Thursday, Duterte said many critics believe his methods of fighting crime "are unorthodox” and are almost illegal. However, he said that he knew right from wrong and would be uncompromising in adhering to due process and the rule of law.
In keeping with his unsophisticated manner, the inauguration ceremony was far less elaborate than those of his predecessors.
Aides said there would be no sumptuous banquet and no champagne corks popping, just a meal of homely dishes for the roughly 600 guests.
Duterte served as mayor for 22 years of the southern city of Davao, the third largest city of Philippines.
According to human rights groups, death squads have killed at least 1,400 people in Davao since 1998, most of them drug-pushers, addicts, petty criminals and street children. Duterte denies any involvement in the vigilante killings.
Duterte is not known for elegant dressing. He usually wears a short-sleeved casual shirt, never wears socks and said during the election campaign that he wouldn't be seen in a tie.