Duterte tells human rights groups not to 'tinker' with the drug war

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 24) – Human rights defenders should keep their hands off the government's war on drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte said, as he maintained that the illegal drug trade will keep putting the public's welfare at stake without his administration's policies.

"Human rights (groups), you better look for another fight," Duterte said in a televised address late Monday night. "Do not tinker with the drug problem in the Philippines. This is mine and mine alone."

The President has repeatedly hit back at critics of his drug war, which has been linked to extrajudicial killings and other abuses. A report by the United Nations' human rights chief in June indicated that anti-drug operations in the Philippines are being carried out "without due regard for the rule of law, due process, and the human rights of people."

READ: UN rights chief says Duterte drug war without regard for due process, human rights

Duterte, however, remains unbending as he directed authorities to disregard "threats" of the advocacy groups, which he said are "out to discredit" and "send to prison" policemen who are merely doing their work.

"Do not be afraid of the threats of the...netong human rights (groups)," he said. "Walang mangyayari sa bayan ko. Kung umatras ako, walang mangyayari sa Pilipinas sa panahon ko. (Nothing will happen to my country. If I back off, nothing will happen to the Philippines during my administration)."

He also told police officers anew "not to be scared" of shooting to kill as long as their lives are on the line.

"Wag kayong matakot pumatay (Do not be scared of killing). Hayaan mo 'yang human rights, basta you do it in accordance with law (You can ignore those human rights groups as long as you kill in accordance with law). Again, the only time you are allowed to kill is when your life is in danger."

During the same address to the nation, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año reported that 3,646 suspects were arrested by the Philippine National Police from Nov. 1 to 21. These were from a total of 2,946 anti-illegal drug operations, which also resulted in the death of 37 individuals.

Local and international groups have flagged thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings resulting from Duterte's public pronouncements. Malacañang, meanwhile, insists that there are no state-sanctioned killings.