Duterte defends drug war in Russian forum, blasts 'misguided' critics

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 04 2019 01:03 AM | Updated as of Oct 04 2019 03:11 AM

(UPDATE) President Rodrigo Duterte defended his administration's war on drugs before high-profile politicians and experts in Sochi, Russia on Thursday, saying he only wanted to protect the country from those who wish to tear it apart.

"We only seek to curb criminality that corrodes the very structure of government... Is this not something all nations are entitled to?" he said in speech during the plenary session of the prominent political forum Valdai Discussion Club.

The president slammed countries critical of his domestic policies, including its traditional ally the United States, for their "misguided and self-serving crusades."

"Some of the so-called friends act like they know the answers to our problems, and impervious to our specific socio-economic and political conditions, they create rules and norms for almost everyone, and some refuse to be bound by the same," he told the audience, which was also attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He added, "They see what they want to see to justify the preconceived notions and not trying to understand what is truly happening in my country. Is this how friends treat each other?"

Duterte also blasted countries who backed out from an arms deal due to concerns of human rights violations, but "these countries supply high-end weaponry to parties whose actual human rights record leave so much to be desired."

"By their acts, they weaken my government’s ability to protect law abiding citizens from the outlaws. They limit our capacity to stop the vicious cycle of internal conflict and underdevelopment. They clip our wings making it more difficult for us to effect meaningful change for our people," he said.

In his 20-minute speech, he clarified he was not against the United States, the Philippines' longtime ally, but called on Washington and other nations to show "fairness, equality and mutual respect."

"What we seek is fairness, equality and mutual respect. We want strengthened rules-based order where countries big or small are treated the same," he said.

He went on, "The principles of respect of state sovereignty, non-intervention, the peaceful resolution of disputes must be upheld at all times. Otherwise, the order unravels. This is crucial especially now with the rise of new powers and the relative decline of the old.'

WARMER PH-CHINA RELATIONS

During the forum, Duterte was asked about the drastic shift of the Philippines' foreign policy and reasons for pursuing friendlier ties with China.

He answered, "During my time, I was at a loss where to go. I didn't have contacts. I was not really expected to win the presidency."

His central domestic policy, the brutal war on drugs, was also criticized by the United States when he took office.

He then went on a lengthy defense of the anti-drugs campaign, saying he was not only fighting against drug traffickers, but also government officials involved in the illegal trade.

"I take responsibility for all of the consequences of this drug war... If someday somebody has to be hang, I will be happy. I will even put the noose on my neck... or if you want to shoot me in a firing squad, fine," he said.

"Our national hero died before a firing squad. That could be an honor for me, to be in the same situation. But I do not aspire for honor.. I'm just a worker of government. I will do what I need to do to protect the people."

It was only then that the president gave his reason for pivoting to China.

He said the United States halted the planned sale of some 24,000 assault rifles over concerns about human rights violations in the Philippines.

It was also the time when Islamic State-inspired terrorists laid siege in the Islamic City of Marawi.

"[It] took us about 5 months to quell the rebellion. It was only when China gave us very well-made guns," Duterte said.

Duterte is in Russia anew for a bilateral meeting with Putin after his first trip to the country was cut short in May 2017 due to a terror attack in Marawi.—With a report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News