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Philippines president-elect says Duterte urged him to uphold ‘war on drugs’

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MANILA: Philippines president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Thursday that his predecessor had asked him to uphold his “war on drugs,” a controversial anti-narcotics campaign that has led to the deaths of thousands of Filipinos.

Outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte began a crackdown on drug suspects when he assumed power in 2016.

According to official data, over 6,000 Filipinos have been killed in the anti-drug campaign. International rights groups estimate the death toll to be between 12,000 and 30,000.

In the first media address since his proclamation as the next president, Marcos said that Duterte told him it was important that the campaign continue.

“I fully appreciate what he said,” the new leader told reporters. “The drug problem in the country continues to be a problem and we must continue to look that way.”

He said that Duterte had told him to proceed with the campaign on his own terms.

“‘Continue the anti-drug (war) that I started. Do it your own way. Do what you want with it, just don’t set it aside because it will be the youth who will suffer. Their lives would be ruined,'” he added, quoting Duterte.

The Philippines has come under pressure from the UN to investigate allegations of systematic killings as part of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.

International Criminal Court investigators launched a probe into the war on drugs in September last year, saying it appeared to have been “a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population,” and could amount to a crime against humanity.

The inquiry was suspended two months later to assess a deferral request from the Philippines government and has not resumed since.

Marcos, the son and namesake of the late Philippines dictator, and his running mate Sara Duterte-Carpio, the daughter of the incumbent president, were declared winners of a May 9 election, succeeding Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo, who will complete their six-year terms on June 30.

It was not immediately clear how Marcos plans to implement the anti-drug campaign, but one of his electoral promises was a continuation of Duterte’s policies.

The incoming administration’s nominated executive and press secretaries did not respond to repeated attempts on Thursday to reach them.

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