MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte said he is "sorry" for the "loss of lives" in a drug bust this week that left dead 4 Chinese nationals and seized the government's biggest narcotics haul this year so far.
Tuesday's operation in Zambales province yielded P3.4 billion worth of meth, locally known as shabu. The 4 suspects were killed in a reported shootout with authorities.
"I’m sorry for the loss of lives. Hindi man natin ginusto ‘yan (we did not want that). But I just hope that the countries from where these guys come from should understand that we have laws to follow," Duterte said in a taped national address that aired on Wednesday.
Duterte then told Filipinos abroad, "‘Pag nasabit kayo sa droga sa labas, hindi ako makialam, even in case ‘yong sabihin na i-execute na."
(If you are tagged in drugs outside, I will not interfere, even in cases where you'd be executed.)
Duterte in 2016 promised to stamp out crime and narcotics in 3 to 6 months.
Repeating a remark in his last State of the Nation Address, he said when he promised this, he did not know he was fighting some government officials dabbling with drugs.
More than 6,000 people have been killed in over 200,000 anti-drug operations conducted since July 2016, according to official data. Human rights groups estimate the number of dead could be several times higher.
A former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has requested a full-blown inquiry into the alleged crimes against humanity under Duterte's drug war.
Duterte refuses to submit to the ICC inquiry. In 2019, he withdrew the Philippines from the court after it launched a preliminary examination into the war on drugs.
The court could still investigate crimes committed while the country was a member, ICC's former chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said.
The Supreme Court has junked petitions questioning Duterte's withdrawal from the ICC, but it also reiterated in a ruling this July that the Philippines is still obliged to comply with the ICC treaty.
— With a report from Agence France-Presse