‘There is a jungle out there’: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vows to continue drugs crackdown during annual address
Several thousand left-wing protesters marched with an effigy of Duterte to the House of Representatives to demand he deliver on promises made in his first state of the nation speech last year
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed on Monday to press on with his controversial drug war that has claimed thousands of lives, as he outlined his vision of an “eye-for-an-eye” justice system.
Duterte devoted large chunks of his annual State of the Nation Address to pushing his law-and-order policies that have made him hugely popular with many Filipinos, but been condemned by human rights groups and other critics.
“No matter how long it takes, the fight against illegal drugs will continue because that is the root cause of so much evil and so much suffering,” Duterte told lawmakers from both houses of Congress.
“The fight will be... unrelenting despite international and local pressures, the fight will not stsop until those who deal in it understand that they have to cease, they have to stop because the alternatives are either jail or hell.
“There is a jungle out there, there are beasts out there preying on the innocent, the helpless.”
Duterte swept to victory in last year’s presidential elections after promising an unprecedented crackdown on drugs in which tens of thousands of people would die.
Since he took office on June 30 last year, police have reported killing nearly 3,200 people in the drug war.
More than 2,000 other people have been killed in drug-related crimes, according to police data. Rights groups say many of those victims have been killed by vigilante death squads linked to the government.
Duterte on Monday also urged lawmakers to reintroduce the death penalty.
“I ask Congress to act on legislation to reimpose the death penalty on heinous crimes, especially illegal drug trafficking,” Duterte said.
He emphasised that capital punishment was about “retribution” as much as deterrence.
“In the Philippines, it is really an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. You took a life, you must pay it to die. That is the only way to get even.”
The lower house of Congress this year passed a bill to bring back the death penalty, but the Senate has yet to approve it.
Earlier, several thousand left-wing protesters marched with an effigy of Duterte to the House of Representatives to demand he deliver on promises made in his first state of the nation speech last year, from holding peace talks with communist insurgents to improving internet speed.
Riot police, without batons and shields to underscore a policy of maximum tolerance toward demonstrators, separated the protesters from a smaller group of Duterte supporters outside the heavily guarded building.
Inside the hall, left-wing legislators sought ingenious ways to protest. Emmie de Jesus, who represents the Gabriela women’s party-list group, wore native clothes with beadwork reading “Regular Jobs Now” – a criticism of contractual work without benefits.
Another lawmaker, Arlene Brosas, wore a black dress with a hand-painted message by a former political prisoner saying “No to Martial Law”.
Duterte won congressional approval on Saturday for an extension of martial law in the south to deal with the siege of Marawi city by pro-Islamic State militants, the worst crisis he has faced since taking power last year.
Additional reporting by Reuters