Duterte to Deliver Final Speech 07/26 06:11
MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is set to
deliver his final state of the nation speech Monday before Congress, winding
down his six-year term amid a raging pandemic, a battered economy and a legacy
overshadowed by a bloody anti-drug crackdown that set off complaints of mass
murder before the International Criminal Court.
Allies defended the 76-year-old populist leader's record, with documentaries
on state-run TV and speeches highlighting his administration's efforts to fight
criminality, poverty, corruption and decades-long communist and Muslim
insurgencies, as well as build infrastructure.
They backed calls by the ruling party for Duterte, who took office in
mid-2016, to run for vice president when his term ends in June next year --
potentially with his daughter, now a city mayor, running to succeed him in the
May 9 elections. Opposition lawyers have threatened to block the move in the
Supreme Court, arguing it would breach constitutional term limits. Philippine
presidents are limited to a single term.
"Six years is not enough for a very good president," House of
Representatives Speaker Lord Allan Velasco told ABS CBN News. Velasco said he
would back Duterte's possible bid for the vice presidency. The 1987
Constitution prohibits political dynasties, but the House, where powerful
political clans have held sway for generations, hasn't passed a law to enforce
"The pandemic really hurt us a lot, no one was ready for it, and because of
that I can't give the administration a perfect grade," Velasco added.
But increasingly vocal opponents have pounded on Duterte's missteps and
handling of key issues, including his refusal to steadfastly confront China's
aggressive behavior in the disputed South China Sea, given his cozy ties with
President Xi Jinping. They railed at the government's coronavirus vaccination
campaign, which has faced delays due to supply problems in a country with the
second-largest numbers of infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, after
On the eve of Duterte's speech, left-wing activists hung a huge banner that
read "Goodbye, Duterte" on a pedestrian bridge across a highway leading to the
heavily guarded Congress in suburban Quezon City. More than 300 legislators and
top officials, who were required to get full coronavirus vaccinations, were
expected to hear the address.
A few thousand left-wing protesters gathered in a nearby university, then
marched toward Congress but were blocked by anti-riot police units.
"His years in office will forever be linked with the thousands of lives lost
in extrajudicial killings, and the thousands of lives also lost amid his
administration's bungled response to the COVID-19 pandemic," opposition Sen.
Risa Hontiveros said in a statement.
The Philippines has reported more than 1.5 million confirmed COVID-19
infections, with 27,224 deaths. Months-long lockdowns and natural disasters
caused the economy to plummet by 9.5% last year in the country's worst post-war
recession. Businesses could not fully resume nationwide due to continuing virus
Duterte and police officials have denied condoning extrajudicial killings of
suspects, although he has publicly threatened to kill suspects. More than 6,000
mostly petty suspects have been killed under his crackdown, but a large number
were also gunned down by motorcycle-riding assassins who human rights groups
suspect were linked to law enforcement.
"He has not won this war on drugs, because the problem is still there, but a
lot of families have lost their breadwinners," Randy Delos Santos told The
Associated Press. "We're the biggest loser and we still live in fear."
Delos Santos's 17-year-old nephew, Kian, was shot to death in 2017 by
officers, who accused the young student of being a drug courier and alleged
that he resisted arrest. A court, however, later found the three officers had
murdered the student in a rare conviction of drug crackdown enforcers.
An ICC prosecutor said last month a preliminary examination found reason to
believe crimes against humanity had been committed under Duterte's crackdown on
drugs and sought permission to open a formal investigation. Duterte said he
would never cooperate in the possible investigation.
"Why would I defend or face an accusation before white people? You must be
crazy," Duterte said.