Duterte reaffirms role of military in drugs war

Posted on February 03, 2017

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Thursday reiterated his intention to involve his military in a leading role in his deadly drug war, while vowing to kill more traffickers and addicts.

This handout photo from the Presidential Photographers Division (PPD) taken and released on February 2, 2017 shows Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte holding a list of government officials who are allegedly involved in the drug trade during a speech in Davao City in the southern island of Mindanao. -- AFP
“I’m taking in the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and raising the issue of drugs as a national security threat so that I will call on all the armed forces to assist,” Mr. Duterte said, while promising to kill more “son of a bitch” drug addicts.

His comments were the first following a report from Amnesty International that the killings in the drug war, in which more than 6,500 people have died in seven months, may amount to crimes against humanity.

They were also the clearest signal of Mr. Duterte’s plans for the drug war, after he admitted this week the police force that had taken the leading role was “corrupt to the core” and said they would no longer be allowed to take part.

Mr. Duterte’s moves against the police he had entrusted as his frontline troops came after a series of scandals emerged over the past month in which police were caught committing murder, kidnapping, extortion and robbery using the drug war as cover.

In one of the highest-profile cases, anti-drug officers kidnapped a South Korean businessman then murdered him inside the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters as part of an extortion racket, according to an official investigation.

Then Amnesty on Wednesday accused police of systemic human rights abuses in the drug war, including killing defenseless people, fabricating evidence, paying assassins to murder drug addicts and stealing from those they killed.

It also said police were being paid by their superiors to kill, and documented victims as young as eight years old.

“The police are behaving like the criminal underworld that they are supposed to be enforcing the law against,” said the human rights monitoring group which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977. Amnesty further warned of possible crimes against humanity and added that the International Criminal Court may need to investigate.

However, Mr. Duterte was unrepentant on Thursday as he launched a profanity-laced tirade against his critics and rejected charges of human rights abuses.

He resumed his tirades against the United States, now under the leadership of Republican Donald J. Trump, and threatened not to send an ambassador there.

Mr. Duterte also warned that Washington’s “picking fights” with Beijing would put his country in harm’s way. “I went to China. Now you keep on pushing us. Assert, assert, assert... It will create friction. So I go out and picking fights? What do you think will happen to this country? It’s massacre. Where is the battleground? The Republic of the Philippines,” he said.

White House Spokesman Sean Spicer in his comments last month signaled a sharp departure from years of cautious US handling of China’s assertive pursuit of territorial claims in Asia. “The US is going to make sure that we protect our interests there,” he said when asked if Mr. Trump agreed with comments by his secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson. On Jan. 11, Mr. Tillerson said China should not be allowed access to islands it has built in the contested South China Sea.

Mr. Duterte also vented his ire at the European Union, the National Democratic Front, and the Catholic Church.

At length, he congratulated the country’s water districts on this occasion, being the 38th National Convention of the Philippine Association of Water Districts in Davao City.

Mr. Duterte cited the Davao City Water District (DCWD), among other agencies, saying the district has embarked on tapping the surface water of Tamugan River. He expressed hope that DCWD and its partners will be able to deliver bulk water to a much wider area in Davao City. -- AFP, with Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral and Maya M. Padillo