Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Pic: AP.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Pic: Edwin Espejo.

Days after a New York-based human rights group issued a call for the Philippine government to investigate him, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte dared his critics to directly file criminal cases against him in court.

The catch, however, is that they will have to face him in court.

Duterte has been linked to a clandestine assassination squad that has been targeting criminals and known drug pushers in Davao City. He is rumored to have once pushed a drug dealer out of a flying helicopter.

“I will cross examine. Each and every case of 1,000 deaths. I will let you s**t in your pants. You want to experience it? Come to Davao and take hold of shabu (methamphetamine). I will execute you in front of city hall,” said the mayor who has been described by Time magazine as ‘The Punisher’.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) however said, “Duterte’s public support for the extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals should prompt a long overdue investigation into Duterte’s possible role in those deaths.”

“Duterte has a long history of inflammatory public statements that would seem to encourage the extrajudicial killing of suspected criminals,” HRW added in a press statement.

HRW claimed more than 1,000 people had been executed in Davao City since the late 1990s.

(READ MORE: A man of many names: Davao’s controversial, colorful Mayor Duterte)

“The Philippine government should take a zero-tolerance approach to any public official who publicly endorses extrajudicial killings as an acceptable means of crime control,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Duterte, a former city prosecutor, has been mayor of the Philippine southern city for more than 20 years.

The controversial Philippine mayor has been making inroads in Philippine national politics after he crashed into the list of probable presidential candidates next year.

He is advocating federalism in his ‘listening tour’ that has brought him to several key cities in the country, including a quick visit to the large community of overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong.

He is running third in at least two major polling firms making surveys on probable presidential candidates.

His supporters have been pushing Duterte to announce his presidential bid but the mayor has been playing coy.

(READ MORE: Southern Philippines Mayor Duterte emerges as presidential prospect)

The Davao City mayor once said he will rebel against his own government if elected president.

“I will declare a revolutionary government,” he previously declared.

On Sunday during his regular TV program, he said he will turn Manila Bay into a dumping ground of executed criminals and thugs.

“I don’t want to be president. I don’t want to kill people. So don’t elect me as president,” Duterte added.

Despite his links to extrajudicial killings that have already spread in major cities and urban centers in the country, Duterte still enjoys popular support of Davao residents and is believed to corner the bulk of Mindanao votes should he run for president.