MANILA, Philippines - President Duterte has a job to offer overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East who have become unemployed: help him kill drug addicts.
The President made the promise – or joke – before a group of distressed OFWs who arrived from Saudi Arabia almost at the same time as his arrival from Qatar before dawn yesterday.
“Pag wala kayong trabaho bigyan ko kayo… patayin ninyo lahat ng addict (If you lose your job, I’ll give you one. Kill all the drug addicts),” the President was overheard telling an OFW at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
“Tulungan mo akong patayin ang mga addict (Help me kill addicts),” he told another OFW. “Magpatay kayo ng addict araw araw (Let’s kill addicts everyday).”
The President is known for making outrageous statements, which his officials would later dismiss as joke or claim it was reported out of context by the media.
After delivering his arrival speech, Duterte handed out envelopes containing P10,000 cash to about 150 distressed Filipino workers from Saudi Arabia.
He also said he is thankful to OFWs for their contribution to the economy. He said he hopes they can help more in his anti-drug campaign, which has drawn criticism from human rights groups and other institutions abroad, including the United Nations and the European Union.
At the airport, some OFWs shook the Chief Executive’s hands, while others just looked on smiling. Others openly thanked him for helping them in their plight.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo helped the President distribute the envelopes containing cash. The cash assistance came from the Office of the President, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
In his arrival speech, Duterte also begrudged having to set aside P1 billion for the treatment of drug addicts. The fund is on top of the budget for the medical needs of the poor.
“It really hurts to give this P1 billion to community-based drug addicts,” he said in Filipino, with expletives.
He lamented he has to help drug users – although grudgingly – because they too are Filipinos.
“But what can I do? I have to treat them, just as citizens of this Republic. Pero masama talaga loob ko (But I really feel bad about it),” Duterte said.
He said aged and sickly OFWs staying in shelters, particularly in Saudi Arabia, should be given primary attention by the government.