Duterte says 'no apologies' for drug war

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Duterte says 'no apologies' for drug war
This handout photo taken and received on May 9, 2022 from the Philippine Presidential Photo Division (PPD) shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte casting his ballot in the presidential election at a polling precinct in Davao City, on the southern island of Mindanao.
Presidential photo / Ace Morandante

MANILA, Philippines — While some groups accuse him of being a human rights violator because of his drug war, President Rodrigo Duterte will not apologize for his controversial campaign and is even eyeing to finish off at least three drug lords before stepping down next month.

Speaking during a meeting with some Cabinet members Wednesday night, Duterte reminded mayors, governors, and other government officials not to violate the trust of the people by getting involved in illicit drugs trade.

He said the narcotics trade now involves billions of pesos so ta "war" to put an end to the problem, which he said is destroying families and the nation.

"It has to be a war. It's not just a special operation of the police and military. It cannot be because this is — this thing is a very sinister and virulent activity that would affect the life of a nation. This is difficult. You know it," Duterte said.

"I would say and I would insist, during the tail end of my administration, that I did the right thing. I won't back down. No apologies...For me, I did the right thing," he added.

Human rights advocates have criticized Duterte's drug war, saying the campaign, which has left more than 6,000 suspected drug offenders dead, has emboldened the police to commit extrajudicial killings and other abuses. Duterte and his officials have repeatedly denied this and have insisted that the government respects the rule of law.

Duterte has been accused of committing crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the deaths linked to his narcotics crackdown. Malacañang, however, has maintained that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the issue because local courts are still working and the treaty that created the tribunal did not take effect in the Philippines.

Duterte said the drug war has persisted because lieutenants of slain drug lords are taking over narcotics syndicates.  

"Siguro bago ako mag-alis, matatapos — makatapos lang tayo ng mga — mga tatlo o limang drug lords. Gusto ko patay, ayaw ko ng buhay. Gusto kong makita ang mga drug lords, lumaban kayo ‘pag dumating na ang pulis sa ano (Perhaps before I step down, let us finish off three or five drug lords. I want them dead. I don't want them alive. I want to see the drug lords fight with the police). I urge you to fight it out," the president said.

"I would tell them, my co-workers in government, we have to gamble, we have to fight them. If we figure in a clash, just kill them," he added.

Duterte expressed willingness to defend police officers and soldiers who would face charges in connection with their duties even if he is no longer the president.  

"To the police and military, this is my guarantee to you. Listen to me...if I am no longer the president but you face charges for doing your duty, do not be afraid. If you cannot get a lawyer, I will go to the court for you...I will be there to protect you," Duterte said.

"I am not asking for understanding. I might be very clear on this, I am talking and I am not seeking your understanding. I said I take full responsibility for what is happening in the war on drugs. As long as they, the enforcement people, do it in accordance with the law," he added.

Duterte expressed hope that his successor would sustain the campaign against illegal drugs.

"I hope that I said the next administration would be, maybe (exert) a stronger pressure (against drug syndicates) compared to what I did. It would be better. The drugs keep on coming back," he said.

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