Before foreign legislators, Fariñas defends Duterte's drug war

MANILA, Philippines – In an extemporaneous speech before a gathering of legislators from all over the world, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s popular but controversial war on drugs.

Fariñas, who attended the international conference of Parliamentarians Against Drugs on December 4 conference in Moscow, Russia, was reacting to Russian legislator Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who spoke of Duterte’s supposed orders for police to shoot drug lords.

“Let me assure Mr. Zhirinovsky that [Duterte] has not issued any order to the police authorities to shoot unarmed drug personalities but only for the police to stand its ground when under attack or threat by an armed drug suspect, which is the generally accepted rules of engagement in any civilized society,” said Fariñas, who represents the 1st district of Ilocos Norte in the House.

Fariñas further defended Duterte by pointing out that “one of the members of the minority” in the House had earlier filed an impeachment complaint against the President for alleged orders to kill.

He was referring to Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, who belongs to an independent opposition bloc.

“Upon due investigation by the House of Representatives of the Congress, the complaint was dismissed by an almost unanimous vote of all the 293 House members as the complaint lacked substantial evidence and was based on pure hearsay and conjectures,” he added.

Fariñas is a staunch ally of Duterte in the House, which is controlled by a so-called supermajority of supporters of the President.

Fariñas concluded by saying that Duterte “continues to enjoy not only the support of the political leaders of the Philippines but the entire Filipino nation.”

A “war on drugs” was among Duterte’s promises during the 2016 elections. Upon assuming office, police immediately went into action, implementing “Oplan Double Barrel,” which supposedly targetted both big-time and street-level drug personalities.

But Duterte’s drug war has been criticized for allegedly being anti-poor and for supposedly resorting to unnecessary violence in police operations. Despite these criticisms, Duterte remains popular in the country.

Duterte, mayor of Davao for over two decades, is also known for making controversial statements about the drug war and human rights in general. Early on, he said he would give security forces “shoot-to-kill” orders for those who resist arrest. He has also floated the idea of “do-it-yourself arrests” by civilians. (READ: Shoot to kill? Duterte's statements on killing drug users)

The President has also said repeatedly that he would defend police who get into trouble for doing their jobs.

But several times since the war on drugs began, Duterte has also pulled the police out of the drug war, following controversial cases wherein cops have been accused of abusing their power. On December 5, Duterte allowed police to “resume providing active support” to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). –