By Genalyn Kabiling
The United States government has declared support for the campaign against the illegal drug trade, Malacañang said Thursday after President Duterte vowed to combat the menace during the remainder of his term.
United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim extended Washington’s support during a courtesy call on the President in Malacañang last Wednesday, according to Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo.
The “strong” US-Philippine relations, the government’s drug war and the return of the Balangiga bells were among the issues tackled in the President’s meeting with Kim and the rest of the US-Philippine Society delegation at the Palace. The meeting, which lasted for one hour and a half Wednesday night, became a chance for the President to defend his drug war before his visitors.
“The conversation centered on the President’s narrative, telling them how the drug war affected him and this country and that he had to declare war on drugs and he had to do it because he wants to protect and preserve this nation,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing.
He said the President explained that three Filipinos have been enslaved by the drug industry which consequently created dysfunctional families.
“The President also told them that he will not stop until the end of his term to end this illegal traffic of prohibited drugs. In response, the US ambassador said the US government supports the fight against drugs,” he said.
Panelo admitted that it was the President who raised the issue about the drug war during the meeting with the US-Philippine Society. “That’s how he started the…telling the group about—perhaps, that is the hottest issue,” he said. “It’s the President who started talking. In fact, he was talking for more than half an hour,” he added.
Apart from sharing the advocacy against drug trafficking, Panelo said the President affirmed the robust relations between the two countries. “The President said the relationship between the US and the Philippines remains strong,” he said.
He said the US-Philippine Society also informed the President about their recent visit to Balangiga, Eastern Samar to look at the famous church bells recently returned by the US.
“They are so appreciative of the very warm reception given to them by the Filipinos there,” he said.
“Ambassador Kim said in a way he was personally affected by the Balangiga issue because he was present when the President mentioned it, requested and/or demanded the return of the Balangiga Bells during the SONA last year,” he added.
The President recently announced that the government would wage a “harsher” war on drugs in the coming days, saying he would not allow the country to become a failed state.
He admitted that the two foreign drug syndicates – the Sinaloa and Medellin cartels – were operating in the country following the seizure of cocaine packages in the country’s shores.
“I am declaring war. I am not declaring a punitive police action. It cannot help and it would not help. So early on I decided but I think I’d be more — well I said harsher in the days to come,” he said.
“I will not allow my country to be destroyed by drugs. I will not allow my country to end up a failed state because of drugs. And I am declaring war and I said I will kill anybody who stands in the way,” he added.