Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed Monday to press on with his controversial drug war that has claimed thousands of lives, as he outlined his vision of an “eye-for-an-eye” justice system.
Duterte devoted large chunks of his annual State of the Nation Address to pushing his law-and-order policies that have made him hugely popular with many Filipinos but been condemned by human rights groups and other critics.
“No matter how long it takes, the fight against illegal drugs will continue because that is the root cause of so much evil and so much suffering,” Duterte told lawmakers from both houses of Congress.
“The fight will be… unrelenting despite international and local pressures, the fight will not stop until those who deal in it understand that they have to cease, they have to stop because the alternatives are either jail or hell.”
Duterte swept to victory in last year’s presidential elections after promising an unprecedented crackdown on drugs in which tens of thousands of people would die.
Since he took office on June 30 last year, police have reported killing nearly 3,200 people in the drug war.
More than 2,000 other people have been killed in drug-related crimes, according to police data.
Rights groups say many of those victims have been killed by vigilante death squads linked to the government.
Duterte on Monday also urged lawmakers to reintroduce the death penalty.
“I ask Congress to act on legislation to re-impose the death penalty on heinous crimes, especially illegal drug trafficking,” Duterte said.
He emphasised that capital punishment was about “retribution” as much as deterrence.
“In the Philippines, it is really an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. You took a life, you must pay it to die. That is the only way to get even.”
The lower house of Congress this year passed a bill to bring back the death penalty, but the Senate has yet to approve it.
Duterte continues to enjoy wide popular support despite the spate of killings.