Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has said he would order his son to be killed by security personnel if it turns out the 42-year-old was involved in illegal drug trade. The firebrand leader, who has been waging a bloody drug war in the country since he took charge, said he would provide security to police officers who kill his son.

Duterte has launched a relentless war against illegal narcotics trade in the Philippines and there have been rampant killings. Many of them have been branded as extrajudicial murders at the hands of vigilantes and others raising serious human rights concerns. However, Duterte has shown little regard for rights groups or activists and has promised to pursue his anti-drug campaign.

"My orders are to kill you if you are caught, and I will protect the police who kill you," the president told his eldest son, Paolo, who is currently the vice mayor of Davao city. "My order then is if any of my children are into drugs, kill them so that the public can't criticize us," Duterte said on Wednesday, 20 September, during a gathering of government officials.

This is not the first time he has insisted he would not hesitate to punish his own family if they are found to be drug-pushers or users. During the presidential campaign, he said: "None [of my children are into illegal drugs]. But my order is, even if it is a member of my family, 'kill him'."

He was speaking amid allegations that Paolo was part of a Chinese drug triad, which carry out smuggling and trafficking operations in the Philippines. An opposition politician said the younger Duterte helped to smuggle in a massive cache of crystal methamphetamine from China.

Paolo and his brother-in-law Manases Carpio have denied links to drug operations saying such accusations are rumours without basis.

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warns he would not hesitate to punish his family members if they are involved in the drug trade Romeo Ranoco/Reuters