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Cayetano calls Duterte drug war 'rule of law campaign'

MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said illegal drugs, and not the Duterte administration's war on drugs, "has eroded the rule of law" in the country.

In a press release sent early Sunday, September 24, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Cayetano "engaged in a no holds barred public discussion at the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York" on Thursday, September 21 (Friday, September 22, in Manila).

"We refuse to just watch and do nothing as the Philippines becomes a narco-state and as we lose a whole generation to narcotics," Cayetano was quoted as saying.

The DFA added that Cayetano referred to President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war as a "'rule of law campaign' aimed at taking out power from drug lords and narcopoliticians and putting it back to law enforcement and the courts."

The Philippine government has been heavily criticized for its bloody drug war, which began in July 2016 under Duterte. There have been thousands of drug-related killings, both in police operations and through vigilante-style executions.

While critics here and abroad – including the United Nations (UN) and European Parliament – have demanded an end to the killings, Duterte previously vowed that the war on drugs would be "unrelenting" and there would be "more killings to come."

The President, however, recently tempered his messaging on the drug war, after the controversial death of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos at the hands of Caloocan City police during a drug raid on August 16. Police claim Delos Santos fought back, but CCTV footage, witnesses' testimonies, and autopsy results indicate otherwise.

Two days after Delos Santos was killed, another teenager – 19-year-old Carl Arnaiz – was shot dead also by Caloocan City police. Arnaiz was accused of robbing a taxi driver, but initial investigation shows his killing seems to have been "staged." (READ: Kian and Carl: What the deaths of two boys have in common)

These killings prompted the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) to replace the entire Caloocan City police force. (READ: Philippines worst in impunity in global index)

Last Friday, in Geneva, Switzerland, the Philippines rejected calls by UN member-states to conduct a thorough probe into extrajudicial killings, saying deaths from police operations "are not EJKs." (READ: Rise in deaths in police operations 'normal' – Dela Rosa– Rappler.com