MANILA, Philippines – Amidst criticism against President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. told the United Nations on Saturday not to interfere in the president’s crackdown on crime.
Yasay said that the Duterte administration is “determined to free the Philippines from corrupt and other stagnating practices, including the manufacture, distribution and use of illicit drugs.”
“Our actions, however, have grabbed both the national headlines and international attention for all the wrong reasons. We urge everyone to allow us to deal with our domestic challenges in order to achieve our national goals without undue interference,” Yasay said during the annual U.N General Assembly.
The secretary noted that Duterte had won “an unprecedented and resounding electoral mandate” and has a 92 percent approval rating. With that, he needs to deliver on a “sacred” call to bring a change.
“To him, this trust is sacrosanct. It cannot be breached, under no circumstance must it be compromised,” Yasay said.
Duterte, who won by a landslide in the May 9 elections after putting an emphasis to eliminate crime and drugs in the Philippines, has been receiving international criticism, including from the UN, following the deaths of about 3,000 people allegedly involved in drugs.
Various human rights groups are saying that the country’s security forces are engaging in extrajudicial killings, with statistics revealing that a third of about 3,000 killed were shot dead by police and the rest murdered by unidentified attackers.
Yasay, however, said Duterte has declared that the rule of law and due process should prevail at all times.
“We have not and will never empower our law enforcement agents to shoot to kill any individual suspected of drug crimes. And yet, under our established rules of engagement, our police have the right to defend themselves when their lives are threatened,” Yasay said. “Extrajudicial killings have no place in our society and in our criminal justice system.”
Sometime last week, Duterte invited the UNs’ chief and international human rights experts and the European Union to investigate the allegations of extrajudicial killings. He however insisted that they should also face him in a public debate.
The Philippine leader also once said that President Barack Obama is welcome to probe his anti-drug war after the US leader expressed his concern over the drug-related deaths.