Cayetano defends Duterte's drug war on CNN International

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) Like any other war, President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs is marked by bloodshed.

As Duterte's crackdown continues to draw global attention, CNN International Chief Correspondent Christiane Amanpour talked to one of Duterte's biggest supporters, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, and one of his fiercest critics, Senator Leila De Lima, on their stand on the spate of drug-related killings in the country.

Cayetano is keeping his fingers crossed the Philippines would not be another Thailand or Mexico, as Amanpour said the two countries both conducted a huge crackdown on drugs, but the drug problem continued.

"Are you sure this (war or drugs) will work?" Amanpour asked.

"We hope so, we're praying so we are just trying to instill in the people the love but also the fear of the law," Cayetano said.

He added, "as to casualties as I said in a perfect world no one should die."

 

The death toll reached 2,000 on Tuesday, based on data released by the Philippine National Police.

At least 895 suspects have been killed in the police's anti-drug operations over the past two months. Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa also earlier told a Senate inquiry 1,100 deaths are under investigation.

Cayetano vs. De Lima

Cayetano said the government's anti-drug campaign is "bearing fruit." He was the President's running mate in the May 9 elections.

"We have three to seven million Filipinos who are hooked on drugs, three million who are addicted to it," Cayetano said. "Something has to be done and our President has started to do something about it."

"What do we tell the critics? Please come here, don't just read the reports because there are people out to discredit him (Duterte) that are using the words extrajudicial killing, summary killing, vigilante killings very loosely," Cayetano said.

He was addressing the U.S. government and the United Nations, which have expressed their concerns over reports of alleged extrajudicial killings.

Cayetano showed Amanpour a copy of the Inquirer's Kill List, a running record of slain drug suspects, saying there's a problem in the way these cases are being reported. "Why will you call it a kill list when internationally a kill list means an assassination list?" Cayetano said.

He said the killings are an offensive against the drug lords in the government's bid to cleanse the country of illegal drugs, but promised "this is not going to be the norm."

"Once that everything stabilizes and we can put more money on CCTVs (closed-circuit television camera), on drug labs, on crime labs, on paying the police more, on professionalizing all aspects of our governance, you will have the more European or U.S. type of law enforcement that you want," Cayetano said.

But Duterte's staunchest critic is serving under his administration.

No to killings

"How can anyone say that there are no extrajudicial killings? We have no more than 2,000 dead bodies, dead persons in the name of the so-called war," De Lima said in a separate interview with Amanpour.

While she understands the magnitude of the country's drug menace, De Lima earlier said, "we cannot wage the war against drugs with blood."

The former Justice Secretary has engaged in a longstanding word war with the President who alleged she is a protector of drug lords. She has repeatedly denied any involvement in the country's illegal drug trade.

Related: De Lima, officials in Duterte drug matrix may face graft charges

"I know what the truth is and the truth is on my side," De Lima told Amanpour.

De Lima said the best way to end the drug problem is to intensify the campaign against illegal drugs but "with the least number of killings."

"Yes there are still a lot to fix in our criminal justice system so let's fix it. Let's fix the law enforcement, let's make it more efficient," she said.

De Lima added law enforcers should be trained and more prosecutors should be hired. "There should be no shortcuts in trying to achieve law and order in our society."

 

Addiction as a health problem

On April 18, the U.N. did not mince words as it released a statement urging the Philippine government to "stop unlawful killings of people suspected of drug-related offenses."

This prompted Duterte to threaten to leave the UN, but days after, he said he was only kidding.

Read: Duterte threatens to pull PH out of United Nations

The U.N. called on the Philippine government to adopt necessary measures "to protect all persons from targeted killings and extrajudicial executions."

A day after, the U.N. General Assembly agreed to take a health-oriented approach to ending the drug menace -- from prevention of drug abuse to the treatment, rehabilitation, recovery and social reintegration of drug dependents.

Convening a special session on the world's drug problem, the UN stressed the need to "promote protection of and respect for human rights."