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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 ban.

   "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 
Indonesia.

   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 
surges.

   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.

 
 
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