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President Duterte says his accusers should be blamed if “war on drugs” fails. Image: Philippine Daily Inquirer

By Marlon Ramos in Manila

Human rights advocates, beware. You might just be next in “The Punisher’s” crosshairs.

President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to kill human rights activists critical of his take-no-prisoner tactic against illegal drugs, which has claimed the lives of some 5000 people allegedly involved in the narcotics trade.

In a speech in Malacañang on Monday night, Duterte said those accusing him of ordering the summary executions of drug personalities should be blamed if the country’s drug problem worsened.

“The human rights (defenders) said I ordered the killings. I told them, ‘OK. Let’s stop. We’ll let them (drug users) multiply so that when it’s harvest time, more people will die,” the President said at the inaugural switch-on of a coal-fired power plant.

“I will include you because you are the reason why their numbers swell,” he said in Filipino.

Duterte had been openly giving out grim warnings to drug users and pushers, but had also been consistent in denying insinuations that his words were veiled sanctions for extrajudicial killings.

He infamously earned the moniker “The Punisher” for advocating the vigilante murders of petty criminals when he was still the mayor of Davao City for 23 years.

‘Stage 2 cancer’
As in all his previous speaking engagements, the President reiterated the magnitude of the country’s drug problem, likening it to a “stage 2 cancer”.

“If the human rights (community) could not understand what I’m saying, if you’re that stupid, then I cannot do anything for you,” he said.

He lambasted the United States and the European Union yet again for raising their concern over his threats to kill suspected drug personalities.

“When was it a crime to say, ‘I will kill you’ in protecting my country? When did saying, ‘if you harm my country and my children, I will kill you’ become a crime?’ My God!” he said.

Duterte also mocked the European lawyers, saying “their brain is just like a pea.”

“Don’t believe in European lawyers. They are stupid, believe me. Listen to Filipino (lawyers),” he said.

‘Validated list’
Duterte then showed his audience a 25cm thick pile of documents, which contained the “validated list” of about 5000 public officials allegedly behind the illegal drug trade.

The Chief Executive said most of those benefitting from the illicit business were village officials who were earning “easy money”.

“(That’s why) I acceded to an election this year for the barangay captains. We would have lost to the money of the drug industry,” he said.

Duterte said he also showed the documents to former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during their one-on-one meeting.

The President has blamed Arroyo and his predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III, for allowing the drug trade to proliferate during their incumbency.

“I am not trying to scare you,” he said as he presented the so-called “narco-list.”

“This is the drug industry of the Philippines. These are all the names,” he continued. “I showed this to (former) President Arroyo. I said, ‘Ma’am, we are in a bind. I really do not know how to (handle this). I surrender. I cannot do this.’”

Even if he wanted to kill all those on the list, Duterte said he “would not have the time and resources to do it.”

He said “narco-politics” was already existing in the Philippines “given the so many thousands of policemen and mayors involved” in the sale and distribution of illicit substances.

Marlon Ramos is a reporter on the Philippine Daily Inquirer.