Duterte: The poor are hardest hit in the drug trade

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 5) — President Rodrigo Duterte admitted Thursday the poor are the most vulnerable to the war on drugs, but denied the government was targeting them on purpose.

Speaking before participants and organizers of the Agrillink fair in Pasay City, the President explained the drug trade is an organized crime; the poor is the main market of shabu and the peddlers usually come from the poor.

"It's really the poor that are hard hit. Itong mayaman sa Pilipinas, heroin, pati cocaine, and the ecstasy drugs. And they can buy it, they can use it because they have exclusive houses, they stay in buildings that are secured," he said.

[Translation: It's really the poor that are hard hit. The rich in the Philippines, they use heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy. And they can buy it, they can use it because they have exclusive houses, they stay in buildings that are secured.]

Duterte, however, said he was not targeting the poor and in fact, he had risked his life for them even before he was President

"Itong mga mahirap, they are the most vulnerable ones. Kaya akala nila kinakalaban ko sila. Look, kayong mahihirap tinataya ko ang buhay ko para sa inyo even when I was mayor," he said.

[Translation: But the poor are the most vulnerable ones. That's why they think I am not on their side. Look, I have been putting my life in the line for you even when I was mayor.]

Related: 60% of Filipinos believe rich spared, poor killed in drug war – SWS

International and local human rights groups have criticized Duterte's war on drugs, saying thousands have died in anti-drug operations.

But the President said the drug operations in the national penitentiary continue despite the campaign.

Meanwhile, President Duterte told Agrilink participants the administration will continue to accelerate efforts to support the farmers.

"Rest assured that the government is accelerating its own efforts in empowering our farmers and fisherfolk through various programs," he said.