Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday that he would protect the children of his country from the scourge of drugs and would not hesitate to kill drug dealers. He also encouraged the children to enlist themselves in the army to defend the country from its enemies.
During his speech at a Boys Scouts' ceremony at the presidential palace, Duterte did not mince words. He said he would kill dealers "if you touch our children".
More than 8,000 people have been killed in the nationwide ruthless anti-drugs crackdown since Duterte took over office seven months ago. According to Duterte, illegal drugs are threatening to turn the Philippines into a narco-state.
The police reported that more than 2,500 people were killed, while rights groups claim that there have been more than 5,000 other deaths linked to the drug war. The Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also warned Duterte may be overseeing crimes against humanity, with police allegedly running anonymous death squads.
Meanwhile, Duterte has vigorously denied involvement in thousands of mysterious killings of drug users. He insisted that he has not asked his security forces to break the law. However, time and again, he has called for millions of addicts to be killed and vowed to pardon police officers found guilty of murder.
The 71-year-old president also said that he planned to restore basic military training in universities to instill discipline, stepping up government's crackdown on narcotics. "I need soldiers, I need boy scouts. Who wants to become soldiers?" Duterte added. "I am counting on you, are you ready? Answer me, children. Always love you country."
According to Duterte, the Philippines had become too libertarian as the youth reject the boy scouts and military training programme and embrace alcohol, street brawls and drugs.