Duterte hits critics who say he 'kills the poor'

BUKIDNON, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday, March 25, blasted critics who say he "kills the poor" in an anti-drug campaign that has claimed the lives of more than 7,000 people. 

"They say, 'Duterte kills the poor.' I haven't heard of the children of Lucio Tan or Gokongwei selling drugs," Duterte said in a speech in Bisaya.

"Of course it will be the poor people because the poor are ignorant and more likely to be hit," Duterte said in speech at the Kaamulan Festival in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon. 

The President explained that "if there are drug lords" who cook drugs, "but there are no runners, then there's no sense." He said that "there's always a runner" as "there's always money."

"People who have addictions are like monkeys clinging to your back," Duterte said.

"Now, if you don't kill these ones, there will always be people looking for a supply so there will always be the temptation to cook," he added.

Duterte said: "You say that they are only killing the poor people. Well, I am sorry, I have to clean up, and until such time that the drug lords are dead, are out of the streets, walking at night, you'll all be consumed." 

He continued: "I'm sorry. You say you're poor; that's not an answer. I have a problem: 4 million addicts. Do you want 4 million more? In my time, who will answer for those children who were raped and killed? Who are the ones who do hold-up in the jeep, shoot the passengers? Who will answer for those? Who will answer for the innocent lives?"

'War on the poor'

In his speech, the President also justified his anti-drug campaign by citing the experience of overseas Filipino workers who sometimes "feel like animals just so they can send money home."

"But when they get home, their son is high, their daughter has been raped or killed. Nothing came out of her hardship, nothing came out of her sacrifice. And the drug lords are the ones getting rich. Amid the poverty of the Filipinos, these devils get rich and earn money. So screw you. I will kill you," Duterte said.

He also said he would be "happy" if he is killed at the "altar" of drugs in the Philippines. "It would be my greatest honor to die for my country."

Duterte's war on drugs has killed thousands since the President took office. Of the 7,000 or so, at least 2,555 died in police operations while the rest were slain in extrajudicial or unexplained killings, including deaths under investigation.

Tirana Hassan, crisis response director of Amnesty International, earlier said that Duterte's anti-drug campaign "is not a war on drugs but a war on the poor." 

Human Rights Watch separately said that Duterte could be liable for crimes against humanity.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines had also denounced the "reign of terror" in poor communities as Duterte pursues his anti-drug campaign. 

The killings in the war on drugs replicate the Davao Death Squad (DDS) system that Duterte allegedly employed when he was Davao City mayor, lawyer Jude Sabio told Rappler. 

In an affidavit filed before the Commission on Human Rights, self-confessed former DDS member Crispin Salazar recounted a meeting with Duterte in 1992.

"Tinanong ako ni mayor ‘Kaya mo ba ang ganitong trabaho? Ang patayin ang mga salot sa lipunan tulad ng mga drug addict, drug pusher, at magnanakaw?" the rebel returnee recalled. "Sabi ko, papatulan ko."

(The mayor asked me if I can do this type of job, to kill the dregs of society such as drug addicts, drug pushers, and thieves. I said, I’ll take it.)

Drug rehab center

After his speech at the Kaamulan Festival, the President headed to the site of the proposed drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation center (DARTC) in Barangay Casisang, Malaybalay.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said Malaybalay is an ideal location for the facility because of its cold weather.

“It will not be like the other facilities where the patients feel like it’s a detention center. In the proposed site, they will be taught many skills, including gardening and organic farming. It has a sprawling resort-like design,” Zubiri said in an interview on Saturday.

The facility, which is expected to be operational by the last quarter of 2017, will also have 4 basketball courts and an indoor gymnasium, swimming pool, and training centers. – With a report from Bobby Lagsa/Rappler.com