MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday promised to "protect" policemen and soldiers at the forefront of his bloody war on drugs, amid mounting international criticism.
Speaking before army troops in Isabela province, Duterte brandished a list of village chiefs, policemen, soldiers, and mayors whom he accused of involvement in the illegal drug trade.
"I will protect you. I will not allow one policeman or one military to go to jail," he said.
Duterte said he was ready to go to jail in place of his men.
"Lahat ng gawin mo, utos iyan ni Mayor Duterte...Siya ang ikulong ninyo. Ako ang magpapakulong. [Tell them you are taking orders from Mayor Duterte... Jail him. I am willing to go to jail]. Just do what is the mandate of the Constitution, at ako ang bahala sa inyo [I will take care of you]," he said.
The United Nations, the United States and various human rights groups have expressed alarm at the hundreds of drug suspects killed since Duterte assumed office on June 30.
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Duterte said the Philippines risked going into a "tailspin" unless the drug lords and their protectors in government are stopped. "Ito ang pinakamabigat, corruption ito at crime [This is the gravest combination, corruption and crime]."
Expressing displeasure at policemen on the take, the President said: "How can I build a case na ganito? Sabi ng human rights, you build a case then you file [How can I build a case? Human rights said build a case and file]"
He repeated the names of Naguilian, La Union Mayor Reynaldo Flores, and retired police general and now Daantabayan Mayor Vicente Loot, who were previously linked to the drug trade.
"What does it mean? It means that wherever he was assigned, he was into drugs," he said of Loot.
READ: Duterte's list: Narco politicos, lawmen, judges