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Duterte vows to keep drug war amid human rights concerns

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a two-hour State of the Nation Address on Monday, JUly 24, 2017 before a joint session of Congress at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City. Philstar.com / AJ Bolando

MANILA, Philippines — In his second State of the Nation Address on Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his vow to continue his controversial war on drugs campaign.

Duterte said the crackdown against illegal drugs will continue because for him it is "the root cause of evil." This was despite several criticisms received from both local and international human rights groups as well as expert findings that the drug trade thrives where there is poverty, weak rule of law and poor health policy.

The fight against illegal drugs will be unrelenting. Despite international and local pressures, the fight will not stop until those who deal in it understand that they have to cease, they have to stop because the alternative is either jail or hell," Duterte said in his SONA speech with the theme of "comfortable life for all."

READ: Rambling 2-hour SONA: Duterte skips key issues

The president said he does not intend to lose the fight against illegal drugs while he shrugged off human rights and due process concerns.

Duterte said that instead of condemning the authorities and blaming the government for every killing in this country, his critics should just use their authority to educate the public about illegal narcotics.

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READ: A look at major issues Duterte is confronting in his 2nd year

"To the critics against the fight [against illegal drugs], your efforts will be better spent if you use the influence, moral authority and ascendancy of your organizations over your respective sectors to educate the people on the evil of illegal drugs," Duterte said.

"Don't get me wrong, I value human life the way I value mine," he added.

A total of 3,200 alleged drug personalities have died in police operations from July 1, 2016 to June 20, 2017. On average, nine alleged drug suspects were killed daily during the eleven-month period.

The United States Congress last Thursday conducted a hearing into the human rights consequences of the war on drugs in the Philippines.

READ: Rights groups want tougher stance on Duterte's drug war from Trump

In his first year in office, Duterte received several criticisms even from international leaders. He threatened to cut ties with nations which criticized his war on drugs including the European Union and the United States under former President Barack Obama.

Despite this, Duterte continued his call on the public to join his crackdown against drugs.

"That is why I ask you to join me in this fight against illegal drugs and all forms of criminality. The government equipped with legal authority and your moral ascendancy over the sector you represent can do so much and hopefully eradicates the social scourge that plagues us to no end," he added.

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