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Philippines' Duterte taunts ICC, saying war on drugs far from over

Philippines' Duterte taunts ICC, saying war on drugs far from over

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his final State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives in Quezon city, Philippines on Monday, July 26, 2021. (Jam Sta Rosa/Pool Photo via AP)

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday (Jul 26) the battle against narcotics is far from over, more than five years after he began a brutal war on drugs that has killed thousands and prompted an accusation of possible crimes against humanity.

Duterte, in his last State of the Nation address, defended the campaign, saying it had brought down crime and improved peace and order.

"We still have long way in our fight against the proliferation of drugs," Duterte said in his nearly three-hour address, which many had expected would focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Duterte, 76, is not eligible for re-election, but has hinted he may run for vice-president, which critics see as a possible backdoor to a return to power.

READ: Philippines' Duterte ponders play for power as political exit looms

Before his address, hundreds of activists took the streets of Manila despite the threat of the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, carrying banners criticising Duterte's rights record and his handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Last month, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) sought the go-ahead to launch a formal investigation into the drugs war killings, saying crimes against humanity could have been committed.

Protesters wear face masks with slogans before marching towards the House of Representative where Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is set to deliver his final State of the Nation Address in Quezon city, Philippines on Monday, July 26, 2021. Duterte is winding down his six-year term amid a raging pandemic and a battered economy. (AP Photo/Gerard Carreon)

READ: Philippine drug war dead exhumed as grave leases expire

Duterte, who has dared the ICC to put him on trial, taunted the court again, saying he has never denied that he will kill people out to destroy the country.

"I have never denied, and the ICC can record it: Those who destroy my country, I will kill you. And those who destroy the young people of our country, I will kill you. I will really finish you, because I love my country."

READ: Philippines obliged to cooperate with ICC despite withdrawal, says top court

Human rights groups accuse Duterte of inciting deadly violence and say police have murdered unarmed drug suspects and staged crime scenes on a massive scale. Police deny this and Duterte insists police are under orders to kill only in self-defence.

"Duterte has nothing to show for his promise years ago to eliminate illegal drugs - nothing to show but dead bodies killed by the police," said Carlos Conde, Philippines researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Duterte, who won the presidency in 2016 on a promise to fight corruption, crime and illegal drugs, remains highly popular despite the criticism of the killings and his pandemic response.

With more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases and more than 27,000 deaths, the Philippines has the second worst outbreak in Southeast Asia.

READ: Philippines' Duterte threatens those who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine with jail

"We had hoped the president would present a clear roadmap to economic recovery, and how the government is building up healthcare capacity to handle any surges and future pandemics," said Rizalina Mantaring, an officer at the Management Association of the Philippines.

While saying the country could no longer afford more lockdowns, Duterte said he could not completely rule out stricter curbs if the spread of the Delta variant got worse.

He also called on the public to get vaccinated. The Philippines has so far fully immunised only 5.5 per cent of its 110 million population, data shows.

Source: Reuters/vc


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