Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte promised to continue his administration’s deadly drug war in his annual State of the Nation address on Monday.
Duterte, addressing both houses of the Philippine Congress, said the war would be “relentless and chilling” and that drug dealers knew “fully well that their business is against the law.”
“These drug dealers know fully well that their business is against the law. They know the consequences of their criminal acts, especially when caught in flagrante delicto and they violently resist arrest. They know that illegal drugs waste away lives, dysfunctionalize families, and ruin relationships,” Duterte said. “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.”
Duterte also lashed out against human rights advocates who have decried how deadly his administration’s drug war has been. Duterte accused human rights advocates and the Catholic Church of not addressing drug usage and drug dealing, arguing that they were more concerned with worrying about the present instead of the “present and the future.”
“Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives,” Duterte said to applause. “The lives of our youth are being wasted and families are destroyed, and all because of the chemicals called shabu, cocaine, cannabis, and heroine.”
The Philippine National Police has killed over 4,500 drug suspects while arresting 149,265 drug suspects. Over 1.2 million people have surrendered into their custody, according to Rappler. This does not include how many suspected drug users and dealers have been killed and arrested by other government agencies such as the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. (RELATED: Duterte Bails On The International Criminal Court After They Started Looking Into His Bloody Drug War)
The Human Rights Watch claimed that over 12,000 people have been killed, in its 2017 “World Report 2018,” though these numbers do not include 2018. Prominent Duterte critic Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV claimed in February that over 20,000 people have been killed in Duterte’s drug war, according to Al Jazeera.
Duterte also highlighted the improvement in his country’s relationship with China, traditionally a Philippine adversary. However, he did warn that the Philippines would not “waver” in their commitment to defend the West Philippine Sea.
“Our improved relationship with China, however, does not mean that we will waver in our commitment to defend our interests in the West Philippine Sea,” Duterte said.
In addition to addressing concerns about his drug war and his administration’s foreign policy, Duterte strongly lashed out against the abuses Filipino migrant workers have faced.
“This is why we strongly condemn the deaths and abuses experienced by Filipino migrant workers in the hands of their foreign employers. I have said this before and I say it again: I am a worker of government, and it is my vow to make sure that your well-being remains our foremost foreign policy concern,” Duterte said.
His defense of migrant workers came after a Kuwaiti social media star criticized a new Kuwaiti law that allowed Filipino workers to have a day off and prevented their employers from seizing their passports, according to the Guardian.
Duterte also called for Congress to pass tax reform, such as lowering corporate taxes, and universal healthcare. He also promised to defend the environment and combat mining companies, who he accused of being irresponsible and destroying natural resources.
“Expect reforms, radical ones. I cannot intend to quarrel with anybody, with the moneyed, but for as long as I am here I said: you will just have to contend with me,” he said.
Duterte’s speech was lambasted by his critics such as Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who said it was “like watching and listening to a bad movie rerun” while thousands of activists protested and called his policies “anti-poor,” according to Reuters.
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