Duterte taunts ICC in last SONA, orders more ‘kills’
MANILA, Philippines — Up to the very end, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to kill.
Facing complaints of crimes against humanity in his drug war, Duterte taunted the International Criminal Court (ICC) to put on record his threat to kill drug peddlers, which he said he would do out of love for country.
In his last State of the Nation Address (Sona), Duterte on Monday continued his violent rhetoric that had been a staple in his public pronouncements.
“I would be frank, I would never deny and the ICC can record it: Those who destroy my country, I will kill you. And those who destroy the young people of our country, I will kill you. I will destroy you because I love my country,” Duterte said.
He also asked Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, his former national police chief, to kill “idiot” police officers who allegedly supplied arms to communist rebels under the pretext of providing firearms to security officials in business establishments.
“Many soldiers died because of the arms they brought into the Philippines. So that my orders to you, if you see them walking around, kindly shoot them dead. I would be happy,” he said.
“Anyway, you are already charged in the ICC together with me. So, what is the problem with adding another one? Another idiot Filipino who has caused great damage to our country,” he added.
Far from solved
Duterte acknowledged that the drug war, which he had promised to end in six months, was far from solved.
“While we have made great strides in ending rebellion and insurgency in various parts of the country, we still have a long way (to go) in our fight against the proliferation of drugs. This problem has hounded our country for several decades — destroying families and degrading the moral fiber of our society,” he said.
The Duterte administration has been under fire for killings and abuses committed by state agents.
Thousands of mostly poor drug offenders have been killed in the antinarcotics campaign after they allegedly fought back against police officers.
This narrative has come into question because of findings indicating that evidence against the suspects had been planted and they were shot with intention to kill.
Before she stepped down in June, ICC special prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked the pretrial chamber of the ICC to authorize an investigation of the drug war killings.
She said she found basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder “was committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack directed against a civilian population pursuant to or in furtherance of a state policy.”
She estimated that between 12,000 and 30,000 were killed, much more than the official count of 7,000.
The President said he would not cooperate in the investigation.
Not ‘like Davao’
The war on drugs was Duterte’s flagship program. He promised to end the problem swiftly but walked back on an early resolution, saying it was bigger than he had anticipated.
“I thought it was like in Davao. You can either coerce, intimidate or bribe them, or give them money,” he said.
The former Davao mayor recalled telling drug dealers to leave his city and to ply their trade in Luzon and other places.
“The fools believed it and we were able to attain a sense of normalcy in the city. That is the truth,” he said.
When Duterte took office, his administration waged an “unprecedented” war on drug manufacturers, financiers, suppliers, peddlers and entire syndicates and their protectors in government.
But he lamented that police officers and customs officers were involved in the drug trade.
“I did not know that I was fighting my own government. Customs and everyone else were facilitating the importation of drugs,” he said.
Drug laboratories were now gone, but illegal drugs from Mexico and Laos were still being imported into the Philippines, he said.
“That is how we are fighting, almost losing a battle against drugs,” he said.
The president chided drug war critics, saying they only saw the dead “criminals.”
“How about the victims on the other side?” he said, referring to victims of drug addicts who rape and kill. “Why don’t you look and see what these criminals have done to our children, to our wives and daughters?”
Seeing ‘red’ again
The president also reserved some of his vitriol for communist rebels.
Duterte repeated his allegation that the rebel movement collected huge sums from businessmen, but little of this amount made it to their troops on the ground “who die for an ideology that is so rotten and corrupt.”
“They haven’t tired of it. It’s about 53 years in the making. And until today, the poor people are dying. The cadres and most of them belonging to the indigenous tribes of our country are fighting a losing battle between the communist and the government.
They waste lives, they enlist children and they are proud of it, but they deny it,” he said.
Moreover, all they do is “bad-mouth government and mouth the war dogmas and everything,” he said.
He said he was confident that support for their movement would erode in the next few months, and credited the police and military for destroying communist fronts.
Praise for task force
Duterte also said the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict was helping address the root causes of the communist insurgency.
He also touted his peace and order program, saying that Filipinos find it safer to walk on the streets.
“Parents are no longer worried about their children walking the streets at night,” he said.
The president enters his final year in office facing more than peace and order problems.
He also has to grapple with the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has halted the momentum of the country’s economic growth and left many struggling to survive.
The administration’s response to this unprecedented crisis is expected to form a significant part of his legacy.
The president’s valedictory address lasted nearly three hours, more than double the one hour Palace officials earlier estimated.
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