Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial war on drugs at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly held Saturday, September 29, in New York, saying that the country was on track to “salvaging” itself from becoming a narco-state.
Cayetano said that the Philippines was “uncompromising” on the issues of rule of law, and the “just and equitable peace that leads to order, development and prosperity, and the protection of each and every human beings’ rights.”
“As a sovereign and democratic country led by our duly-elected president, we are on track in salvaging our deteriorating country from becoming a narco-state, or a state held hostage by the rich and powerful who ignore the plight of the poor, powerless, and marginalized, or both,” Cayetano said at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly.
In response to the criticism on the war on drugs which has been building up in the country and abroad, Cayetano said such criticism was based off of misinterpretation.
“We may sometimes differ in how we express ourselves, yet this should not be interpreted as turning our backs on the universal declaration on human rights,” said Cayetano. “On the contrary, we are instituting all of these reforms to be able to protect the rights of every single Filipino.”
“Yes, rights of all Filipinos, if that is at all possible,” continued
Cayetano, adding that the Philippine government would choose to protect rights of “law-abiding citizens and law enforcers” over those of “drug lords and criminals.”
“Who wouldn’t? Wouldn’t you do the same?” added Cayetano.
Since taking office in 2016, President Duterte and his administration have been a focus of human rights advocates in regards to the war on drugs that advocates estimate has left at least ten thousand people dead from extrajudicial killings. Government statistics have held the number below 5,000.
A preliminary investigation by the UN-recognized International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently underway in response to complaints filed against him.
On Thursday, September 27, Duterte admitted to the extrajudicial killings in a speech at Malacañang Palace which his presidential spokesperson Harry Roque downplayed as not being serious.
“I told the military, what is my fault? Did I steal even on peso?” said Duterte. “My only sin is the extrajudicial killings.”
Roque followed up by saying that the comments were “playful” and should “not be taken literally” — a response Roque has before made following remarks made by the president.
During the Thursday speech, Duterte added that he did not plan on ending the war on drugs.
“It will not end. As I have said, I will put on the table my life, the presidency. I can lose it at anytime. My honor,” said Duterte.
At the UN General Assembly, Cayetano closed his speech saying, “The Filipino People will remain to be persistent in our quest for peace order development and prosperity, and the quest for a safe and comfortable life for all Filipinos.”
“We will continue to have faith, put actions to our faith, and love our neighbors,” said Cayetano.