Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte warned those involved in drugs that they face “jail or hell” during an astonishing state of the nation speech in which he attacked critics and advocated capital punishment as “retribution” for crimes.
A year into his presidency, the controversial Philippines leader has been accused of spearheading an anti-drugs campaign which has violated human rights laws and claimed the lives of thousands of people.
In a wide-ranging speech at the House of Representatives in Quezon City, Duterte said that since his election in 2016 he has attempted to stamp out addiction and illegal drug use.
“I believed then as I believe still that the progress and the development [is a problem] if criminals, illegal drugs, illegal users of drugs are allowed to roam on the streets freely,” he said.
He told delegates that the country’s economy can only flourish in times of peace, before warning that the government’s crackdown on narcotics will be “unrelenting.”
“The fight against illegal drugs will continue because that is the root cause of so much evil and so much suffering. [Drugs] weakens the social fabric and deters foreign investment from pouring in.
“Despite international and local pressures the fight will not stop until those who deal in it [drugs] understand that they have to stop because the alternatives are either jail or hell,” he said.
“I will make sure, very sure, that they will not have the luxury of enjoying the benefits of their greed and madness.
“I do not intend to lose the fight against illegal drugs, neither do I intend to preside over the destruction of the Filipino youth by being timid and unattentive in my decisions.”
Addressing organizations such as Amnesty International, which has accused Duterte’s administration of at least 9,000 extrajudicial killings in the past year, the president suggested that talk of human rights was “trivializing” the drug problem.
He also said he would challenge critics to a public debate about his government’s law enforcement methods.
“To the critics against the fight, your efforts would be better spent if you use the moral authority and the ascendancy of your organisation to educate the people on the evil of illegal drugs instead of condemning the authorities and blaming them for every killing that bloodies this country,” he said.
“But don’t get me wrong, I value human life the way I value mine. Each life that is snuffed out translates into future generations lost.”
Duterte was at the House of Representatives for his second state of the nation address. His speech came amid anti-government protests in Manila on Monday.
During his two-hour long speech, he also called on the legislators to reimpose the death penalty for “heinous crimes.”
A bill to reintroduce government-backed executions in the Philippines is currently awaiting senate approval.