Manila: An advertisement by a US-based online selling portal for Halloween masks made in the likeness of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has elicited light-hearted amusement from the presidential palace.

“Its amusing,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a televised interview at the palace in Manila on Monday.

Like in some Christian countries, the Philippines has taken to observing several days holiday to honour the departed by marking October 31 to November 2 as non-working days.

Filipinos mark October 31 in a spirit of good fun for Halloween when children and some grown-ups dress up in scary costumes while going “trick or treating”.

This year, an online store had offered a Duterte mask made from latex for the ultimate scare.

Even before he became President, the 74 year-old had cultivated and had basked in the image of fear.

Graveyard peace

In Davao City where he was mayor for several years, and now in the whole Philippines, mere mention of his name elicits fear, not much because of his appearance, but because of his image as a leader who would brush aside human rights of suspected criminals in the end goal of imposing order.

“(The masks) would really give criminals the scare,” Panelo said in Filipino.

Since he became President in 2016, Duterte has unleashed a bloody war against criminals. The campaign, by the admission of the police itself, had resulted in the death of more than 6,000 people. Some said it indeed brought peace - the eerie silence of the graveyard nonetheless for those killed in the drive.

The Duterte latex masks sell for $32.99, however, it is not sold in the Philippines, according to online vendor Amazon. In 2018 similar masks of the Philippine leader were sold by Carousell along with US President Donald Trump, Russian leader Vladimir Putin, North Korean Premier Kim Jong Un as well as Hannibal Lecter, a fictitious movie character.

Even before malls had popularised trick or treating, Filipinos had marked Halloween with light hearted fun.

According to University of the Philippines’s Professor Roland Tolentino, on the evening of October 31, some areas in the Tagalog region in Central and Southern Luzon had long practiced “Pangangaluluwa,” where adults serenade the dead as well as the living.