WITH thousands killed and hundreds of thousands more having already surrendered, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said his anti-drug crackdown has been resulting in fewer deaths every day.
According to Inquirer, the leader said in a speech at the presidential palace Malacanang on Monday that there were “only a few left”. The report said members of the audience laughed at his remarks but Duterte in response insisted that he was “not joking”.
“My successor should be freed of this kind of malignancy,” he was quoted as saying of the drug trade.
Since taking office in June, Duterte has embarked on a nationwide crackdown to rid the country of the drug menace, a key promise of his election campaign.
Local media have provided conflicting figures on the number of deaths that have taken place under Duterte’s watch, however.
According to the Inquirer’s Kill List, a total of 1,775 people have been killed since Duterte became president, including both victims of vigilante killings and suspects killed during police raids.
Rappler, on the other hand, puts the count much higher at close to 5,930 since July 1, based on what it says was revised data from the Philippine National Police.
During his speech at the award ceremonies for the Outstanding Men and Women of 2016, the president also reiterated his remarks earlier that he derives no pleasure from seeing people get killed.
“I know that people are killed. It does not make me happy,” the Inquirer quoted him saying.
He also insisted that he found no satisfaction in ordering more weapons and bullets for the police.
In his speech, Duterte claimed there were now four million drug addicts in the Philippines, but he did not disclose where he got the figure from.
“That four million will contaminate another 10 million, then it will be too late for us to save the country. We will be like Latin America,” the Inquirer quoted him saying.
Duterte made a similar remark about not enjoying the killing of thousands of drug dealers at an Awards ceremony in Tarlac City on Sunday.
According to Rappler, in his speech, the president had rejected allegations that killings being linked to his war on drugs were state-sponsored. He also denied ordering the police or military to carry out summary executions.
Duterte insisted that his orders were for the police to only shoot a suspect if he or she resists arrest or fights back.
“Hanapin mo sila, arestuhin mo kung kaya pa, pagka-lumaban at may armas … that would place the life of the police or military man, pati siya madadamay sa kamatayan, unahan na ninyo. That’s my order,” he was quoted saying.
(Translated: Find the suspects, arrest them, if they fight back and they have weapons that would place the life of the policeman or military man in danger, then fire at them. That’s my order.)
Earlier Sunday, Duterte was reported as expressing his willingness to sign an arms purchase deal with China, marking a further thaw in the once icy relations between Manila and Beijing, and the Philippines’s pivot away from the U.S.
According to the Inquirer, Duterte claimed Beijing is pressing him on the deal, in which the guns will be purchased through a 25-year grant to the Philippines government. He believes the term length indicates China’s eagerness in striking the deal.
It is unclear, however, what kind of guns will be acquired as Duterte did not provide details of the matter.