Duterte defends war on drugs, slams US in Singapore speech

Philippine President Duterte holding a stack of documents on the drug industry in the Philippines at the Singapore Expo on Dec 16, 2016.
Philippine President Duterte holding a stack of documents on the drug industry in the Philippines at the Singapore Expo on Dec 16, 2016.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the Singapore Expo on Dec 16, 2016.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the Singapore Expo on Dec 16, 2016.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the Singapore Expo on Dec 16, 2016.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the Singapore Expo on Dec 16, 2016.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the Singapore Expo on Dec 16, 2016.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the Singapore Expo on Dec 16, 2016.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte defended his brutal war against drugs and slammed the US for tying aid to his country to human rights in a speech to thousands of cheering Filipinos in Singapore (Dec 16).

"My campaign against drugs will not stop until the end of my term... until the last pusher and last drug lord (is killed)," said the president, who is on a two-day state visit to Singapore. 

Mr Duterte, who won elections in May largely on an anti-crime platform, has presided over a campaign which has claimed 2,000 lives since July.

The campaign has been criticised by the US for violating human rights and this week a US poverty reduction agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), said its board had “deferred a vote on the re-selection of the Philippines for compact development, subject to further review of concerns around rule of law and civil liberties”.

Mr Duterte slammed the US for tying aid to the Philippines to human rights records, and accused the US of treating his country like a "dog on a leash".

He recalled a US senator's effort to block arms purchase, saying he didn't care as the Philippines can always get weapons from China and Russia.

He also defended his decision to allow former dictator, President Ferdinand Marcos, to be buried in a heroes' cemetery.

"Marcos was a president, no doubt about it. Why didn't former president Corazon Aquino and Benigno Aquino change the law to disallow the burial?" said Mr Duterte.

In an hour-long, profanity-laced speech at the Singapore Expo, the 71-year-old leader acknowledged media reports earlier this week that he had "personally killed" criminals when he was mayor of the southern city of Davao. He said the reports "are not wrong" and he repeated his threat to kill those involved in illegal drugs.

Mr Duterte, who enjoys high approval ratings among Filipinos, acknowledged the welcome he had received from the Filipino community in Singapore. There are more than 180,000 Filipinos living and working here.

Despite heavy rain, some 7,000 members of the community gathered at the Singapore Expo on Friday to meet their new president at the end of his two-day state visit to Singapore.

"I would like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for contributing to the economy. I assure you corruption will stop," Mr Duterte said.