MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night said illegal narcotics in the country is a national security issue and the military has to be included in anti-illegal drugs operations.
Duterte, in a public briefing, claimed that around 200 to 300 drug suspects are being caught every day, stressing how "pernicious" illegal drugs activities is in the Philippines.
"I'd like to pronounce it again that there's a declaration by me, based on a proclamation also of President (Gloria Macapagal) Arroyo before raising the issue of drugs a national security matter. That's why kasali na ang military diyan, because if it's a national security, it is now the welfare of the state at stake," he said.
"That's why hindi lang ito trabaho ng pulis. Eh national security eh. 'Di ko naman inulit. So the military also has to participate," he added.
Duterte told anti-narcotics operatives to ignore human rights advocates' calls to stop the country's bloody drug war, which has killed thousands of people, including children, in the country.
"Kapag umatras ako, walang mangyayari sa Pilipinas sa panahon ko. Gawain ninyo 'yan kapag di na ako Presidente," he said.
Duterte warned human rights activists, including from abroad, not to "tinker with the drug problem" in the Philippines. He even aligned them with notorious drug groups Sinaloa Cartel and Bamboo Triad as "enemies" of the state.
"Di talaga [sila] kalaban na patayan. They're out to discredit, they're out to send to prison somebody who's doing his work," he said.
Duterte echoed his past statements that human rights issues over the country's drug war is "his alone."
"'Wag kayong matakot pumatay. Hayaan mong 'yang human rights. Basta you do it in accordance with law," he said.
Last June, the United Nations said tens of thousands of people in the Philippines may have been killed in the war on drugs since mid-2016, amid "near impunity" for police and incitement to violence by top officials.
Police have argued that their actions in the anti-drug campaign have been lawful and that deaths occur in shootouts with dealers resisting arrest.
"The human rights situation in the Philippines is marked by an overarching focus on public order and national security, including countering terrorism and illegal drugs," the UN said in a report.
Duterte last October claimed that more than 167 million Filipinos are addicted to narcotics, even though the Philippines' population stands just a little more than 100 million.
He later blamed his "poor eyesight" for his erroneous statement.