‘Not one person was killed’

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said police seized the largest haul of methamphetamine in the country in years without anybody being killed, in a subtle criticism of his predecessor’s notoriously deadly crackdown on illegal drugs.

On Monday, police seized nearly 1,630kg of methamphetamine from a van and arrested its driver at a checkpoint in Alitagtag town in Batangas province, south of Manila. Intelligence operations were underway to arrest other suspects, officials said without elaborating.

Locally known as shabu, the powerful stimulant had a street value of more than 13 billion pesos (RM1.09bil), officials said.

“This is the biggest shipment of shabu that we’ve seized, but not one person died. No shots were fired and nobody was injured because we operated slowly,” Marcos told reporters in Alitagtag, where he presented the boxloads of seized drugs to the press.

“This should be the approach in the drug war for me and the most important objective is to stop the smuggling of illegal drugs into the Philippines,” Marcos said, adding that the newly-seized drugs came from outside the country.

Marcos, who took office in mid-2022, has vowed to continue the crackdown on illegal drugs launched by his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, but said it would be done differently and focus more on rehabilitating drug addicts.

Under Duterte, more than 6,000 mostly poor suspected drug dealers were killed in reported clashes with law enforcers.

The widespread killings alarmed Western governments, including the United States, and sparked an ongoing International Criminal Court investigation as a possible crime against humanity.

Police say there have been considerably fewer killings of drug suspects under Marcos, but human rights groups have expressed alarm over the continued killings and asked Marcos to cooperate with the ICC in investigating the killings that took place when Duterte was president and longtime mayor of southern Davao city.As president, Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the ICC’s founding treaty in 2019 after the court launched a preliminary examination into thousands of killings under his anti-drugs crackdown. Critics said then that Duterte’s move was an attempt to evade accountability.

The ICC prosecutor, however, said the court still has jurisdiction over alleged crimes while the Philippines was still a member of the ICC, a court of last resort for crimes that countries are unwilling or unable to prosecute themselves. Marcos told Manila-based foreign correspondents that his relationship with Duterte is “complicated”. — AP

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