By Roy Ramos
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Saturday requested the UN to at least give the Philippines "the benefit of the doubt" concerning their war on drugs.
Amid the United Nations’ (UN) mounting criticisms on how President Rodrigo Duterte's is handling the country's drug battles, Cayetano said, "Our people expect that the sovereignty be respected. And that its democratically elected government’s assessment of threats and how to go about addressing them shall be accorded preeminence among nations."
"Or at the very least, is it too much to ask for the benefit of the doubt?" Cayetano explained in his speech during the 72nd UN General Assembly in New York as quoted by ABS-CBN News.
Duterte’s bloody drug war has been repeatedly criticized by the UN and other rights groups globally.
Cayetano clarified that the administration’s drug battles is not an instrument to violate human rights but rather an instrument to preserve and protect the human rights of all Filipinos. He also reiterated that abuses committed by the police forces will not be tolerated.
According to reports, Duterte’s anti-drug campaign has seen at least 7,000 deaths, however police figures only show 2,700 were killed in legitimate operations.
Cayetano said that as of August 2017, at least four million Filipinos are drug users and around 59% of the villages in the country participate in the illegal-drug trade.
"While drug addiction calls for rehab, drug trafficking surely calls for stern measures though always consistent with the rule of law," he said.
Cayetano added that media reports "deny the real scale" of the illegal-drug problem in the country.
"Headlines today about human-rights abuses but what about the headlines yesterday . . . wherein two-year-olds were being raped, wherein mothers were selling their children to feed their drug addiction?" he said.
"We should never tolerate human rights abuses. But neither should we tolerate misinformation, fake news and politicization of human rights."
Cayetano also noted the participation of the illegal-drug trade in funding the siege laid by the Maute group in Marawi city.
"In the Philippines, we have discovered the intimate and symbiotic relationship between terrorism, poverty and the illegal-drug trade," he said. "These terrorists were somehow able to bring together an assortment of extremists, criminals, mercenaries and foreign fighters who attempted to but failed to take over the great city of Marawi."
President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday night released a matrix of alleged drug lords who allegedly financed the terrorists plot in the Islamic City.