Quezon City — In his second State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte promised a continuation of his administration’s increasingly bloody campaign against illegal drugs—a campaign that remains popular despite more than a year of mounting criticism from his opposition, human rights watch organizations, and heightened international scrutiny.
The President announced before Congress, “I do not intend to loosen the leash in the campaign or lose the fight against illegal drugs.” To those involved in the illegal drug trade and usage, he threatened, “I will hound you to the very gates of hell.”
Duterte’s presidential campaign was heavily anchored on a pledge to rid the country of illegal drugs and criminality, and his strongman stance proved instrumental to his election. Upon his assumption of the presidency, Duterte empowered the Philippine National Police—who saw an influx of Davaoeño authorities—to lead the war on drugs.
Over 7,000 casualties have been recorded in the year since Duterte came into power. The deaths have arisen from police operations—notably Operation Tokhang, which has drawn flak for possible impunity—as well as hundreds of unsolved vigilante killings.
“The fight will be unrelenting,” said President Duterte before members of Congress. “The fight will not stop until those who deal with [drugs] understand that they have to stop because the alternative is either jail or hell.” He assured that anyone involved in illegal drugs would not “have the luxury of enjoying the benefits of their greed and madness.”
Duterte underscored that he was not afraid of “legal condemnation and public persecution,” in carrying out his campaign to protect the next generation of Filipinos from illegal drugs.
Duterte also called on critics of his administration to instead “use [their] influence [and] moral ascendancy” to “educate” Filipinos instead of “condemning the authorities…and blaming [them] for every killing that bloodies this country.”