Filipino president and former Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte has stirred up contention with his brash, off-color statements on rape, extrajudicial killings and more. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Many slain journalists in the Philippines had been corrupt and had "done something" to warrant being killed, the country's president-elect said.

"Just because you're a journalist you are not exempted from assassination if you're a son of a bitch," Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reported.

The brash, tough-talking former mayor, who will be sworn in as president on June 30, was responding to a question about how he would handle the killing of journalists.

He has previously attracted international outrage for his comments, including remarks about the rape and killing of an Australian missionary in 1989. Human Rights Watch has deemed him the "Death Squad Mayor."

The Philippines ranks as the second-deadliest country for journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. At least 75 journalists there have been killed since 1992.

Journalist Alex Balcoba was fatally shot this month in Manila, the Philippine capital.


Philippine president-elect Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a news conference in Davao on May 31. (Manman Dejeto/AFP/Getty)

On Tuesday, Duterte said many slain journalists had accepted bribes or criticized people, who then retaliated, the Associated Press reported. He also said a radio commentator killed in Davao City was "rotten."

"Most of those killed, to be frank, have done something," Duterte said, according to AFP. "You won't be killed if you don't do anything wrong."

He also said journalists who defamed others weren't necessarily protected from violent attacks.

"That can't be just freedom of speech. The constitution can no longer help you if you disrespect a person," he said, according to reports.

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The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemned Duterte's "crass pronouncement" as disrespectful of journalists who have been killed.

"He has also, in effect, declared open season to silence the media, both individual journalists and the institution, on the mere perception of corruption," the organization said in a statement.

The organization said it "does not gloss over the fact that corruption is among the most pressing problems faced by the media. Nor do we deny that this could be the reason for a number of media killings. However, it is one thing to recognize a possible reason for murder; it is a totally different thing to present this as a justification for taking life."

Also Tuesday, Duterte said he would pay police and military officials bounties for every drug lord they turn in, AP reported.

"I'm not saying that you kill them, but the order is dead or alive," he said in a televised news conference.

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