Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has given his second State of The Nation address during which he affirmed his commitment to carry forward the war on drugs and related crime including terrorism. Fighting Philippines’ drug and related crime epidemic was one of the central planks of Duterte’s 2016 election campaign which saw him win a clear victory.
Today, Duterte affirmed his position saying the following in English,
Early on, I felt that if change was to be meaningful, it had to start with those occupying the highest positions in government because change that comes from below is more transitory than permanent. And I was aiming for permanence. Let change trickle down from [top to] bottom.
It has to be a change that is not confined merely to the replacement of people by people, but a change in the people’s attitude, disposition and work ethic.
Sadly, although we knew years ago that what was needed or ought to do, we did not do [them] because our idea of government was parochial and we could not rise above family, ethnic and clan loyalties as well as loyalty to friends and co-workers. No one wanted to be a snitch. That is why we are one in saying that genuine change is what this country truly needs.
I believed then, as I believe still, that progress and development will sputter if criminals, illegal drugs, illegal users of drugs are allowed to roam the streets freely, victimizing seeming with impunity, the innocent and the helpless. Worse yet, there were times in the past when the protectors of the people were themselves the perpetrators of the very crimes they were tasked to prevent or suppress. It is ironic as it is madness.
I have learned that economy surges only when there is peace and order prevailing in places where investors can pour [in] their capital and expertise. I have learned from my experience in Davao City that investor confidence [is] bolstered and fortified only if a potent force and mechanism for [the] protection of local and foreign investments are in place.
That is why, I have resolved that 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 [applause] that weakens the social fabric and deters foreign investments from pouring in. The fight will be unremitting as it will be unrelenting.
Despite international and local pressures, the fight will not stop [applause] until those who deal in it understand that they have to cease, they have to stop because the alternatives are either jail or hell. [applause] And I will make sure, very sure that they will not have the luxury of enjoying the benefits of their greed and madness.
I do not intend to loosen the leash in the campaign or lose the fight against illegal drugs. Neither do I intend to preside over the destruction of the Filipino youth by being timid and tentative in my decisions and actions. [applause]
To the critics against this fight, your efforts will be better spent if you use the influence, moral authority and ascendancy of your organizations over your respective sectors to educate the people on the evils of illegal drugs instead of condemning the authorities and unjustly blaming for every killing that bloodies this country.
But don’t get me wrong. I value human life the way I value mine. Each life that is snuffed out translates into future generations lost. It is like cracking the acorn from which an oak tree grows – which, in turn, produce the seeds to complete the cycle of [life in] perpetuity.
There is a jungle out there. There are beasts and vultures preying on the helpless, the innocent [and] the unsuspecting. I will not allow the ruin of the youth, the disintegration of families and the retrogression of communities, forced by criminals whose greed for money is as insatiable as it is devoid of moral purpose. Neither will I be immobilized into inaction by the fear that I will commit an act that will expose me to public condemnation or legal prosecution. You harm the children in whose hands the future of this Republic is entrusted, and I will hound you to the very gates of hell. [applause]
That is why I ask you to join me in this fight against illegal drugs and all forms of criminality.
The government, equipped with legal authority, and you, with the moral ascendancy over the sector you represent, can do so much, and hopefully eradicate this social scourge that plagues us no end.
Look beyond your biases, your prejudices, your ambition [and] your political agenda. The search for change will begin and end only when we look into ourselves and find it within.
Today, a multitude of problems confront us. No sooner is one problem solved [when] another surges forth in its place. But we will not be disheartened; we will not be cowed; we will not be overwhelmed”.
Duterte then turned to the current ISIS surge in the south Philippine island of Mindanao. He cautioned that ISIS must not be allowed to ruin what should be a long overdue peace process between Manila and pre-ISIS Islamic insurgents in the country’s south. In this context, he also defended his position to impose martial law over territories impacted byte ISIS terrorist attacks.
“There is rebellion in Mindanao. The extremists have declared it their purpose to establish a caliphate within Philippine territory along the teachings and beliefs of [the] Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or otherwise known as ISIS. The battle of Marawi has dealt a terrible blow to our quest for peace especially now that an alien ideology and a radical shift in purpose have been injected into the local setting.
I declared Martial Law in Mindanao because I believed that that was the fastest way to quell the rebellion at the least cost of lives and properties. [applause] At the same time, the government would be adequately equipped with the constitutional tool not only to prevent the escape of rebels who can easily mingle and pretend to be civilian evacuees only to re-group in another place to fight another day, but also to prevent them from spreading their gospel of hate and violence in the rest of Mindanao.
Martial Law and the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus enable the military to arrest, detain and question suspected members and sympathizers of the rebellion similar to what happened to the parents of the Maute brothers.
As president, I am reiterating my unwavering support and commitment to the soldiers of our Armed Forces and the members of our police force — [applause] those who are on the ground and in the battlefields and those who are risking their lives for our country and our democracy. I have your backs. To those who oppose and think that all these efforts are out of order, I hold myself — me and me alone should be responsible. [applause]
The people of Marawi need help. Caught in the crossfire between government troops and Muslim extremists, they have been through hell and we need to help them rise and move forward.
Duterte ended his lengthy speech affirming his support for the re-imposition of the death penalty.
Duterte’s speech was not one which the opposition Liberal Party or the liberal west wanted to hear, but it was very much a speech committed to the values that Duterte has striven for throughout his time in both local and national government. It was as speech that affirmed the values he campaigned on, not one that ran away from responsibility during a very trying time for Philippines.
Duterte’s commitment to the poor and to making Philippines as wealthy a country as it has every potential to be was also a key plank in his campaign, one which he reiterated during his State of The Nation.
The State of The Nation was a combination of law and order, pride and patriotism, steadfastness against aggression and reconciliation among all Philippine citizens. It was classic Duterte and it is what the Philippine President’s supporters have now come to demand and expect from their leader whose popularity among the Philippine masses remains strong.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.