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Philippines' Duterte calls for drug war to continue after he leaves office

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Philippines' Duterte calls for drug war to continue after he leaves office
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte urged police to continue with a bloody war on drugs after he leaves office at the end of the month. File Photo by Rolex Dela Pena/EPA-EFE

June 7 (UPI) -- As his single six-year term comes to an end, strongman Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called for the continuation of his bloody war on drugs and urged the country to rally in support of his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

In a weekly briefing broadcast Monday night, Duterte called on the national police force to "maintain your momentum against the drug problem."

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"I would encourage the [police] to remember their country irrespective of who the leader is," he said. "Please don't let go of the fervor in your hearts, regardless of the leader."

Duterte swept to the presidency in 2016 with a violent, tough-on-crime message, vowing to end the country's drug problem within six months and publicly urging police and even citizens to kill drug dealers.

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According to official government figures, more than 6,200 people have been killed in the brutal anti-drug operations since Duterte took office.

However, the International Criminal Court in The Hague has said the figure could be as high as 30,000, including widespread extrajudicial violence.

In September 2021, the court officially opened an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity in the Philippines under Duterte's war on drugs, dating to his time as mayor of the city of Davao.

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Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the court in 2019 after its preliminary investigation began and his administration attempted to argue that the international body has no jurisdiction in the country.

The court temporarily suspended its probe in November after Manila requested a deferral, but said it would continue to analyze information in the case.

In his address Monday, which Duterte said would likely be his "parting message," the 77-year-old announced he was "ready and eager" for the transfer of power to the incoming Marcos Jr. administration, which will take office June 30.

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"We must all be united in confronting the issues ahead of us," he said. "We have no room for politicking or going into a divisive exercise."

Marcos Jr., son and namesake of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., won a landslide victory last month fueled in part by an extensive disinformation campaign that worked to rebrand his family's history as a golden age of the Philippines.

The Marcos camp also benefited by forging ties with the hugely popular current president through an alliance with his daughter, Sara Duterte, who was elected vice president in a separate race.

The president-elect has said that he will bar the international court from continuing its investigation against Duterte.

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"We have a functioning judiciary, and that's why I don't see the need for a foreigner to come and do the job for us, do the job for our judicial system," Marcos said while campaigning earlier this year.

Duterte said in his address that he planned to stay out of politics once he leaves office.

"If there's a compelling need to talk, I will do it," he said. "But my drift is just really to retire quietly. No more politics for me."

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