Cayetano: Government intends to 'protect human life' with drug war

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said that the government's anti-drug campaign "is not a war on life," even as human rights groups report around 27,000 kills related to the government drive. (READ: Duterte gov't tally: Drug war deaths top 5,500 before SONA 2019)

"The anti-drug campaign, or the drug war as we call it, is not a war on life. Our intention is not to kill people. Our intention is to protect human life. To protect the life, liberty of our people. To protect our people by giving them safe areas to live in. Safe streets to walk. Safe places to work," Cayetano said at the 17th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Friday, August 9.

Those who were killed, he said, were the ones who wanted to kill the law enforcers, while others were avoiding facing criminal prosecution. (READ: PH drug war killings reach 'threshold of crimes against humanity' – report)

He said in a mix of English and Filipino: "But as a whole, the casualties of the drug war are brought about by the force to protect our people but at the same time telling our law enforcement, agencies, and law enforcers, your lives are important too. Why would you save the life of the pusher if the trade-off is your own life or the lives of innocents? But of course, if you can save the life of everyone, why not?" (READ: The Impunity Series)

Telling law enforcement to protect themselves is due to changing times, said Cayetano. He explained that unlike before, law enforcers would wait to see a weapon before they shot. Nowadays, if they don't see a gun, a suspect could have a hidden grenade under his jacket or could be a suicide bomber.

Cayetano also asked the PDEA for closer coordination with Congress, as they support the agency. "I am not here to ask any favor for the Congress. Kung meron po gumagamit, and worse, nagbebenta ng droga or protector ng droga sa Kongreso, kasama po ako sa paglilinis ng ating Kongreso. As the president has told us, we will lead by example."

(I am not here to ask for any favors for the Congress. If anyone is using drugs, and worse, selling drugs or protecting drugs in Congress, I will clean our Congress. As the president has told us, we will lead by example.)

According to the government's counting initiative #RealNumbersPH, the drug war has claimed 5,526 lives from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2019.

However, rights groups say that the deaths number at around 27,000, including the victims of vigilante-style killings. – Rappler.com