Duterte fires back: Killing criminals not crime vs humanity

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte shot back at an international rights group that came out with a report on Thursday about the Philippines' bloody war on drugs.

Speaking to reporters after a groundbreaking ceremony in Cordova, Cebu, Duterte stood pat on the way his anti-drug campaign had been carried out.

"If you kill criminals, it is not a crime against humanity. The criminals have no humanity," was Duterte's expletive-laced reply. Last month, the country's Justice secretary drew flak for giving practically the same reply in reaction to an Amnesty International report — by saying that drug lords and pushers were not the humanity.

Related: Duterte encourages vigilante killings - HRW

Earlier in the day, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report saying Duterte "appears to have instigated unlawful acts by the police, incited citizens to commit serious violence, and made himself criminal liable under international law for the unlawful killings as a matter of command responsibility."

Duterte had repeatedly said the he would protect law enforcers should they kill drug suspects who fight back.

No change in policy

During his groundbreaking rites speech, Duterte fiercely defended the anti-drug war, lashing out at priests along the way.

"I have a country to preserve and that is the Filipino nation. It has nothing to do with religion," he said. "My oath before God and country is to preserve the Filipino people, period."

He said there was "a whale of a difference" between killing criminals and killing innocent people — and these should not be mixed up.

"I am committed to stop drugs before I go out, which means to say: Father, Monsignor, Bishop... marami pang patayan 'to [many more will die]."

Grandpa Rody

On a lighter note, Duterte told reporters that he was "exceedingly excited" to go back to Davao City to see his newborn grandson.

He said he would fly straight back home to see Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio's baby, who was named "Stonefish."

Related: Sara Duterte gives birth to healthy baby boy