MANILA (UPDATE)—Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time) called on the United Nations (UN) to give the Philippines "the benefit of the doubt" amid its campaign against illegal drugs.
"Our people expect that the sovereignty be respected. And that its democratically elected government’s assessment of threats and how to go about addressing them shall be accorded preeminence among nations," Cayetano said in a speech to the UN General Assembly.
"Or at the very least, is it too much to ask for the benefit of the doubt?"
Cayetano reiterated that the Duterte administration's war on illegal drugs does not violate human rights and does not tolerate abuse of cops.
"The Philippines’ comprehensive campaign against illegal drugs is a necessary instrument to preserve and protect human rights of all Filipinos. It is never an instrument to violate any individuals' or groups' human rights," he said.
"While drug addiction calls for rehab, drug trafficking surely calls for stern measures though always consistent with the rule of law."
According to Cayetano, 59% of barangays in the country participate in the illegal-drug trade, while 4 million to 7 million Filipinos use illegal substance, as of August 2017.
Cayetano also slammed media reports that "deny the real scale" of the illegal-drug problem in the country.
"Headlines today about human-rights abuses but what about the headlines yesterday . . . wherein 2-year-olds were being raped, wherein mothers were selling their children to feed their drug addiction?" he said.
"We should never tolerate human rights abuses. But neither should we tolerate misinformation, fake news on and politicization of human rights."
Cayetano also cited the alleged illegal-drug trade in Marawi city, where state forces are battling with Islamic State-inspired terrorists.
"In the Philippines, we have discovered the intimate and symbiotic relationship between terrorism, poverty and the illegal-drug trade," he said.
"These terrorists were somehow able to bring together an assortment of extremists, criminals, mercenaries and foreign fighters who attempted to but failed to take over the great city of Marawi."
President Duterte on Friday released a "matrix" of politicians who reportedly funded the Marawi siege through the illegal-drug trade.
Latest police estimates placed the number of drug suspects slain in legitimate police operations at 3,800.