(UPDATE) FORMER president Rodrigo Duterte agreed with the recent remarks of his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., that abuses were committed during his administration’s war on illegal drugs but insisted that “those were never intended.”
During his program “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” aired on SMNI News, Duterte was asked to comment on Marcos’ reply to a question on the alleged abuses during a forum in Washington last week.
“Yes, that was allegedly attributed to the President. I am not sure if he was quoted in the complete context of the statement. I am sure that it was not intended to criticize me because he knows how hard it is to be president, especially with the serious problem right now,” Duterte said.
“You know what I am supposed to do. I cannot be libertarian; I can only be a stoic human being dedicated to enforce the law because you are the implementers, you are the enforcers,” he said.
The former chief executive said that Marcos was correct when he made the statement.
“Tama siya na (He is correct that) along the way, in the enforcement of the law, [there is] a rigid attitude toward the enforcement of the law, abuses will be committed. Now, I’ll go further; not only abuses, sometimes killing, unnecessarily, or even an innocent person,” Duterte said.
“Along the way, [there is] collateral damage, marami ‘yan (there are many). But those were never intended, I am sure, by the law enforcement agency,” he added.
At a forum organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Marcos last week said there had been abuses committed during the “previous administration” in the war on illegal drugs, which focused too much on law enforcement.
“In my view what had happened in the previous administration is that we focused very much on enforcement. And because of that, it could be said that there are abuses by certain elements in the government and that has caused some concern with many, in many quarters about the human rights situation in the Philippines,” Marcos said.
“Well, I cannot speak to what my predecessor had in mind and what his idea was. But what I can speak to is the policy that we have undertaken and that I said the drug war continues to be at the source of many — much criminality in the Philippines,” he added.
The President also said that even after the anti-drug campaign waged during Duterte’s time, “the syndicates have grown stronger, wealthier and more influential, worryingly so.”
“But instead of going after everyone,” Marcos said, his administration tried “to identify the key areas that we have to tackle … so that we can see a diminution of the activity of the drug syndicates.”
Since Duterte took office in 2016, more than 6,000 were killed in sting operations, based on government figures. But rights groups estimated that the number of drug-war killings could be as high as 30,000.
During the SMNI interview, Duterte again justified the use of lethal force in police operations, saying the officers had to “overcome the resistance” of the suspects being arrested.
“So what’s the point in empowering somebody if you do not give him enough leeway?” the former president said.
“[There is] collateral damage in a shootout inside the house of a suspect; sometimes the innocent members of the family get it. But abuses, there are many, because of the high-handed manner of enforcement,” he added.
The bloody drug war of Duterte caught the attention not just of the foreign media and criticism from different organizations, but also the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In January, the ICC authorized the resumption of its investigation into the drug war and the Davao Death Squad killings in the Philippines.
Duterte, who initiated the drug war, pulled the Philippines out of the ICC in 2019, a year after The Hague-based tribunal began a preliminary investigation into the crackdown.
Marcos has, so far, ruled out reversing Duterte’s decision to pull the Philippines out of the ICC.