PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has called on local chief executives and the police to “double” or “triple” their efforts against the illegal drug menace, as he pledged to relentlessly drug pursue syndicates and their protectors.
In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), Duterte vowed never to back down from his crusade against drugs, which he said had been the cause of rising criminality.
“We will not stop until the last drug lord, financier and pusher have surrendered or been put behind bars, or below the ground if that is what they want,” Duterte declared.
“In this quest, I will put at stake my honor, my life and the Presidency itself… Let me repeat. Do not do drugs!” he exclaimed.
Reacting to criticisms from the Church and media over the growing death toll in police anti-drug operations and vigilante killings, he told Filipinos not to listen to priests and human rights advocates if they did not want to get hurt by drug syndicates.
But Duterte also sought to calm the religious sector, saying “there should never be a separation between God and State” even if he is a stickler for the separation of the Church and State.
The President repeated his assurances of support to policemen involved in anti-drug operations.
“I will be with you all the way [but]abuse your authority and there will be hell to pay. For you will become worse than criminality itself,” Duterte said.
He ordered the National Police Commission to hasten decisions on cases against Philippine National Police officers involved in criminal activities and to launch lifestyle checks.
Military camps as rehab centers
Duterte noted that more than 120,000 drug pushers and users have surrendered to authorities.
To accommodate them, military camps will serve as rehabilitation centers for drug users.
Duterte said military reservists would also be mobilized to help in the information campaign against drug abuse.
He also proposed the strengthening of the Reserve Officers’ Training Course “to instill love of country.”
To integrate government efforts, Duterte said he had ordered the setting up of an interagency anti-illegal drugs body.
Duterte promised to uphold human rights but said this should not be used to protect criminals.
“Human rights must work to uplift human dignity. But human rights cannot be used as a shield or excuse to destroy the country,” he said.