War on drugs highlights Duterte’s first SONA

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/25 July) — The campaign against illegal drugs ate up a substantial portion of President Rodrigo Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address on Monday.

Duterte, whose speech lasted 93 minutes and resorted to ad libs several times, echoed the promise he made during his inauguration that “the fight against criminality and illegal drugs and corruption will be relentless and sustained”.

“I reiterate that commitment today. And that is why I call on the Philippine National Police, the barangay chairmen, the Mayors, and Governors and all those occupying seats of power and authority, not to lower their guard. There will be no let-up in this campaign. Double your efforts. Triple them, if need be. We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier, and the last pusher have surrendered or put behind bars or below the ground, if they so wish,” he said, the last line eliciting applause from the gallery.

He assured the police of his support if they would do their job. At the same time, he warned them he will not condone abuses.

“In this quest, I will put at stake my honor, my life and the presidency itself,” he said.

The president added the government will prioritize the rehabilitation of abusers and the establishment of treatment facilities, which will include military camps.

Duterte further assured the government will observe the rule of law and protection of human rights in the campaign against illegal drugs.

But he added “human rights must work to uplift human dignity”.

“Human rights can’t be used as shield or excuse to destroy the country, your country and my country,” he said, alluding to criticisms that law enforcers might have violated due process in dealing with drug suspects.

“Huwag umasa sa pari, human rights na hindi makakapigil ng kamatayan (Don’t rely on priests, human rights that can’t prevent death),” he said.

Duterte also lashed back at criticisms that the campaign against illegal drugs has not netted big drug lords.

“The media is looking for the big fish…Nandoon sila sa labas, wala dito. They direct the traffic of drugs. Gusto ninyo puntahan natin. I’ll give you the name and the country. Kung wala kang magawa, mag-shut up ka,” he said, eliciting laughter.

He said mandatory education on the evils of drugs will be implemented. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)