UNFAZED by criticism at home and abroad of his campaign against illegal drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday vowed to continue running after drug traffickers, claiming it was not until his election to the presidency that the gravity of the problem was exposed.
Duterte also linked his election rival, former Interior secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd, to one of five police generals he had accused as protector of drug syndicates — retired police deputy director general Marcelo Garbo Jr.
“Nobody in the horizon of the political arena was talking about the seriousness of the drug problem. Nobody was talking about the number of crimes committed against the innocent and hapless civilians, everywhere,” the President said in a speech Friday before members of the Filipino community in Jakarta.
Duterte proceeded to the Indonesian capital for a working visit after the summits of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Laos on Thursday.
“If I didn’t win, the Philippines would be in danger. Why? I’ll tell you, Garbo … was the military aide of Roxas,” he said.
The President said the involvement of police officials in the drug trade emboldened him to pursue his crackdown.
“Even if it takes me the entire six years, I will do it. It will be relentless. I am sorry if you die in the process,” he said, addressing drug suspects who refuse to change their ways.
“All you have to do, my advice, is very simple: Stop,” Duterte said.
He acknowledged that over 1,000 people had died in police operations against drugs, but asked: “What really is 1,000 lives to the 3.6 million?”
Duterte was referring to his estimate of the number of drug dependents in the country, 3.6 million.
Praise for China
In his speech, Duterte praised China for its “generosity” to the Philippines, saying Beijing promised to build rehabilitation centers for drug dependents.
“They’re bringing materials. Only China is helping us,” the President said.
“Next year there will be [rehabilitation centers]. We’re preparing it now. China is helping us. I would like to thank China for being so generous,” he added.
Duterte said he could not build new rehabilitation centers because this year’s budget was prepared by the previous Aquino government.
“We are preparing the budget now, for the next year. When it is in operation, I will have the money to build for the 3.6 million drug addicts of our country,” he said.