With only 10 months left in his six-year term, President Rodrigo Duterte said it was the Filipino nation, and not him nor his family, who benefited from his administration’s drug war.
Duterte made this remark during his pre-recorded Talk to the People on Monday night amid the human rights groups’ criticisms of the aggressive crackdown on illegal drugs.
He said even if the critics’ allegations of human rights violations linked to the drug war were true, Filipinos were still able to reap from its gains.
“Let’s say what the human rights people said are true, who benefited from it? Me? I benefited, my family? Did they benefit from those dead? Who benefited? You! Your children, our nation benefited,” he said in Filipino.
Duterte said the anti-narcotics drive that he started in 2016 put him and his family’s lives at risk.
“Who was put at risk? Me, my family, their lives. Those devils are going to get back at me. I am not a millionaire to have a whole squad at my back protecting me. I am now the one with the problems. Did I benefit? It’s you, you Filipinos,” he added, still in Filipino.
At the same time, he commended the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the Philippine Army, and the intelligence community for confiscating billions worth of illegal drugs.
Duterte’s statements came after 11 American senators, led by Senator Edward Markey, called the attention of US President Joe Biden over their concerns about the human rights situation in the Philippines under the current administration.
Last June, Fatou Bensouda, who was then chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) sought authorization from the court’s pre-trial chamber to allow the conduct of an investigation into the alleged crime against humanity during the Duterte administration’s anti-narcotics campaign.
Bensouda said there was a “reasonable” basis to believe that “the crime against humanity of murder was committed from at least 1 July 2016 to 16 March 2019 in the context of the Philippine government’s war on drug’s campaign.”
Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson said the fears of President Duterte might be valid, although “my own experience in law enforcement tells me that criminal offenders that we arrested and sent to jail or the relatives of those we killed in armed encounters mostly accepted their fate.”
He said the acceptance was part of the risk that they or their dead relatives took when they decided to violate the laws for whatever motives or reasons.
“I said mostly because there were very, very few exceptions,” said Lacson, who once served as PNP chief.
He said one particular kidnap for ransom suspect convicted by the lower court and spent some time in the national penitentiary before he was cleared by the SC continued “to harbor bitterness towards us.”
Lacson said this despite the fact “he knew fully well how much participation he had in the crime.”
Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, another former police chief, said he agreed with the President’s pronouncement on allegations of human rights violations in the bloody war on drugs.
“For what reason does this government launch a bloody war on drugs if it doesn’t benefit the Filipinos? Who is the no.1 target of the drug lords? Isn’t it the President?” he said.
He considered this “very unfortunate” because politics came into play that resulted in trumped up allegations from the opposition just to get the attention of the international community.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said even if one killed all drug dealers and burnt all illegal drugs, if there were drug dependents, they would find other substances to abuse.
He said contact cement, cough syrup and nubain, among others, were being used.
“Then new dealers will replace the dead ones. Best is to follow my holistic approach,” he added.