Children killed in drug war are collateral damage says Philippines' Duterte

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte says police can kill hundreds of civilians without criminal liability.

Innocent people and children killed in Philippines drug war are 'collateral damage', says Duterte
Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while delivering a message before leaving for Brunei Reuters

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said innocent people and children who are killed in his drug war are "collateral damage" as police use automatic weapons when confronting criminals.

When Duterte was questioned by al-Jazeera about the minors caught up in the violence, he said all those cases would be investigated. Duterte added that the police can kill hundreds of civilians without criminal liability.

In order to explain the entire action, Duterte gave a hypothetical case of an officer using an M16 rifle when dealing with a "gangster" who wields a pistol.

"When they meet, they exchange fire. With the policeman and the M16, it's one burst, brrr, and [he] hits 1,000 people there and they die," Duterte told al-Jazeera.

"It could not be negligence because you have to save your life. It could not be recklessness because you have to defend yourself," he added.

Duterte also compared the deaths of innocent people in the Philippines with those civilians who are killed during airstrikes on militants by US attacks in wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

He said: "When you bomb a village you intend to kill the militants but you kill the children there ... Why do you say it is collateral damage to the west and to us it is murder?"

Since Duterte won the election and took office on 30 June, the Philippine law enforcement and vigilante groups have killed more than 3,800 people as part of a campaign against drugs, which apparently will save the country.

Duterte's critics say the president allowed to develop an atmosphere of lawlessness that helped criminal groups to settle vendettas with impunity.

Reports say almost 1,500 of those who have died in police operations but most of the killings were carried out by armed groups. At times, those killings were publicly encouraged by Duterte.

Duterte also faced serious criticism from domestic rights organisations and foreign governments for his brutal crackdown but he chose to reject those.

"We have 3 million drug addicts and it's growing. So if we do not interdict this problem, the next generation will be having a serious problem," he said.

"You destroy my country, I'll kill you. And it's a legitimate thing. If you destroy our young children, I will kill you. That is a very correct statement. There is nothing wrong in trying to preserve the interest of the next generation."

Duterte further added: "In my country there is no law that says I cannot threaten criminals," he added. "I do not care what the human rights guys say. I have a duty to preserve the generation. If it involves human rights, I don't give a shit. I have to strike fear."