“Let me begin by putting it bluntly: the war against illegal drugs is far from over. This is why the illegal drugs war will not be sidelined. Instead, it will be as relentless and chilling, if you will, as on the day it began,” Duterte said in his 48-minute speech – his shortest to date – delivered at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.
Relentless, chilling drug war to continue — Duterte
Alexis Romero, Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) - July 24, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The war against illegal drugs will continue and will be as “relentless and chilling” as it was the day his administration began two years ago, President Duterte stressed during his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday. 

“Let me begin by putting it bluntly: the war against illegal drugs is far from over. This is why the illegal drugs war will not be sidelined. Instead, it will be as relentless and chilling, if you will, as on the day it began,” Duterte said in his 48-minute speech – his shortest to date – delivered at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

“If you think I can be dissuaded from continuing this fight because of your demonstrations, your protests, which I find, by the way, misdirected, then you got it all wrong,” he added. 

The President also slammed human rights advocates here and abroad, as well as Church leaders, who he said are “forceful” and “vociferous” in opposing his anti-drug campaign.

“Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives. The lives of our youth are being wasted and families are destroyed, and all because of the chemicals called shabu, cocaine, cannabis and heroine,” he said.

Duterte said human rights to him means giving Filipinos, especially those at society’s fringes, a decent and dignified future through social and physical infrastructure necessary to better their lives.

“The lives and freedoms and the hard-earned property of every Filipino whose condition we wish to improve shall be protected from criminals, terrorists, corrupt officials and traffickers of contraband,” he said.

“You worry about the present; I am concerned (about) both the present and the future. I worry about the future because I know what crime can do to the youth of this country. If not stopped, crime can make human cesspools of succeeding generations. I will not allow it to happen. Not during my term,” he added.

The anti-drug campaign, a major program of the Duterte administration, has resulted in the death of 4,354 suspects as of June 30, police data showed. A total of 102,630 anti-drug operations were conducted; 147,802 drug personalities were arrested and P21.29 billion worth of illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia were seized during the period.

The Chief Executive pointed out that before, the war against illegal drugs resulted only in the seizure of illegal substance worth millions of pesos and now, they run into billions because of the nonstop fight of his administration.

“I can only shudder at the harm that those drugs could have caused had they reached the streets of every province, city, municipality, barangay and community throughout the country,” he said.

These drug dealers, according to Duterte, know fully well that their business is against the law and that they know the consequences of their criminal acts, especially when caught in flagrante delicto (in blazing offense) and they violently resist arrest.

“They know that illegal drugs waste away lives, dysfunctionalize families and ruin relationships. They know that once hooked, addicts will die slowly – slow deaths. And yet, they persist in doing what they do, oblivious to the terrible harm that they cause to the people and communities,” the President said.

Duterte lamented that when illegal drug operations turn nasty and bloody, advocates of human rights lash at – and pillory – law enforcers and his administration no end.

“Sadly, I have yet to hear really howls of protest from the human rights advocates and Church leaders against drug-lordism, drug-dealing and drug-pushing as forceful and vociferous as the ones directed against the alleged errant (law) enforcers in the fight against this social scourge,” he said.

Duterte defends policies

Duterte also vowed to do his “very best” as the country’s leader as he defended his controversial policies in his SONA.

“About two years ago, I solemnly took my oath as a worker of the national government. I was as inspired to institute real changes for the greater good of the Filipino people, as I was greatly overwhelmed then by the daunting challenges that lay ahead,” the President said.

“Two years later, my solid commitment to directly and decisively address our nation’s collective challenges remains. It has not wavered. In truth, it has even gotten stronger through adversity and the desire to give the people the most we can within my term in this government,” he added.

Aside from his administration’s war on drugs, the Chief Executive also defended the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, which has been blamed by some sectors for the rising prices of commodities. He said the TRAIN law, which imposed new taxes on oil products, must not be suspended because it would generate revenues for key state programs.

“We cannot and should not. We need this for sustainable growth that will leave no Filipino left behind,” he said.

Duterte also justified his move to seek warmer ties with China, saying the re-energized relations with the Asian superpower “led to an unprecedented level of cooperation between our nations on the war against transnational crimes.”

“Our shared intelligence led to the discovery and dismantling of the clandestine shabu laboratories and the arrest of Chinese chemists (connected) with the Dragon organization called Wu Syndicate,” he said.

Duterte, who has been accused of abandoning the Philippines’ maritime claims in the South China Sea in exchange for Chinese aid, said he remains committed to defending the Philippines’ interests in the disputed area.

The President likewise justified his decision to close tourist destination Boracay for six months, a move seen to displace about 35,000 workers and cost the economy about P1.9 billion.

“Boracay Island, widely regarded as one of our country’s treasures and admired worldwide for its natural beauty, has sadly become the representation of the government’s negligence, including mine,” he said.

“I could not allow this decay to continue; decisive action has long been overdue… We intend to restore its environmental integrity, alongside measures to alleviate those whose livelihood were momentarily affected,” he added.

Duterte also vowed to sign the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law but asked Congress to give him two days to review the measure. – With Christina Mendez

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