MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday vowed that his administration will respect human rights, but warned rights advocates that this should not be made as an excuse to ''destroy the country."
Duterte has launched a campaign to stamp out crimes and end the illegal drug trade.
However, critics have said his crusade has cost the lives of many.
In his speech, Duterte appeared to be undeterred by the criticisms, saying ''human rights must work to uplift human dignity, but human rights cannot be used as a shield or an excuse to destroy the country."
The president has expressed no qualms in having drug lords and pushers killed in the name of ridding the country of the drug menace.
Human rights advocates have noted that it is the country's poor who are the main victims of Duterte's bloody war against drugs.
Amid this observation, Duterte vowed in his speech that his administration ''shall be sensitive to the state's obligation to promote and protect, fulfill human rights of citizens, especially the poor, marginalized and vulnerable."
''Social justice will be pursued even as the rule of law shall at all times prevail,'' he added.
Based on ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group, 579 people have been killed from May 10 to July 25.
Of this number, 377 were killed in police operations, where policemen usually say that drug suspects were slain after attempting to fight arrest.
At least 154 were killed by unidentified gunmen and 48 were suspected victims of summary executions.