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Philippine President: Hold Me Responsible for Killings in Drug Crackdown

Philippine President: Hold Me Responsible for Killings in Drug Crackdown

Tuesday, 20 October, 2020 - 13:15
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte attends a meeting at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines on Monday Oct. 19, 2020.(Robinson Ninal Jr./Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division via AP)

The Philippine president has said he accepts responsibility for the thousands of killings committed during police operations in his crackdown on drugs, adding that he was even ready to go to jail.

President Rodrigo Duterte´s televised remarks Monday night were typical of his bluster - and tempered by the fact that he has pulled his country out of the International Criminal Court, where a prosecutor is considering complaints related to the leader´s bloody campaign.

The remarks were also a clear acknowledgment that Duterte could face a deluge of criminal charges. Nearly 6,000 killings of drug suspects have been reported by police since he took office in mid-2016, but rights watchdogs suspect the death toll is far larger.

"If there´s killing there, I´m saying I´m the one ... you can hold me responsible for anything, any death that has occurred in the execution of the drug war," Duterte said.

"If you get killed, it´s because I´m enraged by drugs," said the president known for his coarse and boastful rhetoric. "If I serve my country by going to jail, gladly."

He said, however, that drug killings that did not happen during police operations should not be blamed on him, alleging that those may have been committed by gangs.

Duterte has made a crackdown on drugs a centerpiece of his presidency. At the height of the campaign - which has often targeted petty dealers and users along with a handful of the biggest druglords - images of suspects sprawled dead and bloodied in the streets were frequently broadcast in TV news reports and splashed on the front pages of newspapers. Tens of thousands of arrests in the initial years of the crackdown worsened congestion in what were already among the world´s most overcrowded jails.

Police have reported at least 5,856 drug suspects have been killed in raids and more than 256,000 others arrested since the start of the crackdown. Human rights groups have accused authorities of considerably under-reporting the deaths.

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