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Andanar laments NYT's 'sad appreciation' of Duterte drug war

Andanar, Presidential Communications chief, said the country's drug problem justifies 'drastic strategies'. Philstar.com/Jonathan Asuncion, file
MANILA, Philippines -- In the wake of international criticism caused by President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign against illegal drugs, the Palace on Wednesday justified the tough-talking president's "drastic strategies".
 
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar lamented what he called the New York Times' “sad appreciation” of the president's anti-drug campaign.
 
The NYT editorial cartoon came as the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Sen. Leila de Lima, focused on the drug-related killings, reaching about 1,600 — half of which the government has attributed to vigilante groups.
 
“The New York Times’ William Tell-inspired editorial cartoon, which depicts President Duterte holding a shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapon aimed at a wormy apple on the head of a visibly afraid man representing the Philippines is a sad appreciation of the president’s campaign against illegal drugs,” Andanar said.
 
Duterte’s anti-drug campaign is marred with killings of drug suspects, which has caught international attention from human rights groups.
 
Duterte has also raised a howl a number of times against the United Nations and United States, defending his actions from human rights concerns.
 
He has called the UN a “useless and inutile” body, slamming it for allegedly intervening in local affairs.
 
“While it is true that the president employed drastic strategies, the gravity of the drug menace in the Philippines calls for such measures.  The drug scourge is now a national security threat and public health concern,” Andanar said.
 
Andanar noted that in his first 55 days in office,  President Duterte has made headway in his anti-drug war.  “More than 600,000 individuals have voluntarily surrendered to authorities,” he said.
 
It is unclear how the government will handle the 600,000 who appeared before local authorities and pledged to stay away from drugs but there are plans to put up more drug rehabilitation centers for drug dependents who need in-house therapy.
 
Andanar also echoed the usual argument of Duterte and his lieutenants at the Philippine National Police that the crime rates have registered a significant drop since June 30.
 
“People feel safer and communities are now more secure,” he said.
 
“As a result, nine out of ten Filipinos trust the president. Our people see and understand the president as man of action who wants to deliver on his promises,” the Communications secretary said, citing a recent survey that showed over 90 percent of Filipinos believing and trusting Duterte.
 
“He commands. He inspires. He moves people to be good and patriotic citizens of the Republic,” he added.
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