Perfecto Yasay.jpg
Filipino Foreign Affairs secretary Perfecto Yasay
Photograph: EPA/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

The United Nations and its member states should "have faith" in the democratic system of the Philippines to handle its domestic affairs, including its war on drugs, said Perfecto Yasay, Philippine secretary for foreign affairs, on Saturday.

In a speech before the UN General Assembly, Yasay defended the aggressive anti-drug policies marked with a spate of killings that his country has undertaken since President Rodrigo Duterte took office three months ago.

"We urge everyone to allow us to deal with our domestic challenges in order to achieve our national goals, without undue interference," Yasay said. "Have faith in the strong institutions of our democracy."

The foreign secretary stressed that Duterte's campaign to rid the country of drug crimes was "strictly in accordance" with the country's constitution and international norms.

"We have not and will never empower our law enforcement agents to shoot-to-kill any individual suspected of drug crimes," he said.

"And yet, under our established rules of engagement, our police have the right to defend themselves when their lives are threatened."

Duterte's aggressive drug war has been strongly criticized by rights groups and foreign leaders, as well as the UN and the European Parliament.

According to police, 1,185 drug suspects have been killed in police operations from July 1 to September 21. Another 1,651 deaths as of September 18 are being investigated.

More than 716,000 drug users and small-time pushers have also surrendered, while 18,230 have been arrested.

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