Philippines' Duterte threatens to jail martial law critics


Despite worldwide and domestic criticism, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he will not stop his deadly crackdown on illegal drugs and warns that addicts and dealers have two choices: jail or hell.

"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 warned.

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.

"Do not try to scare me with prison or the International Court of Justice", said Mr Duterte.

Based on data from the Philippine National Police (PNP), 63,926 anti-drug operations have been conducted by police, while 86,933 suspects have been arrested and another 3,200 killed.

More than 7,000 Filipinos have been killed since past year during the clampdown which consists of extrajudicial violence, according to the Human Rights Watch. "They are our heroes", Duterte said in his second State of the Nation Address delivered at Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City. "The government equipped with legal authority and you (critics) the moral ascendancy over the sector you represent can do so much and hopefully eradicate this scourge that plagues us to no end", he said.

The lower house of Congress this year passed a bill to bring back the death penalty for drug-related crimes, but the Senate has yet to approve it.

Ronald S. Recidoro, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines' vice-president for Legal and Policy, said separately: "On the matter of taxation, it's really his prerogative to impose legislation to forward his agenda and we are willing to engage in that discussion".

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The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruptions (VACC) vowed to help President Duterte's drive against corruption and illegal drugs as they expressed satisfaction on emphasis of the Chief executive on the re-imposition of the death penalty.

"[The president] would generally find the prepared speech boring, deviate from the text and talk about anything under the sun", Yabes said, adding that most of the time people get confused during his speeches.

Duterte won congressional approval on Saturday for an extension of martial law in the south to deal with the siege of Marawi city by an armed group, the worst crisis he has faced since taking power previous year.

"I declared martial law in Mindanao because I believed that was the fastest way to quell the rebellion at the least cost of lives and properties", Duterte told lawmakers.

Duterte thanked China for offering to fund infrastructure projects, and even build some bridges across the major river in Manila for free.

Duterte, in his annual State of the Nation address, before Congress, said that the illegal drug campaign was part of efforts to ensure peace and order in the country to encourage investment.

But Duterte insisted there were many long-term benefits to establishing closer ties with China as he repeated wide-ranging grievances against the United States, the Philippines' former colonial ruler and mutual defence partner.