Duterte: I was ‘fighting against my own government’ in drug war

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said that when he asked for six months to end the country’s drug problem in 2016, he didn’t appreciate the levels of pushback and corruption he would find in the government.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Duterte was asked about complaints from local politicians over his sacking of Vice President Leni Robredo as co-chair of the government’s anti-drug agency a week ago.

Duterte told the CNN affiliate his opponents’ criticisms were “stupid remarks coming out of an empty head” and added that every country is tackling a drug problem.

“It is a neverending war … (When I came to power) I expected everybody was working well,” he said. “I did not know when I arrived, when I got to look into the records of drug cases, then I realized that I was fighting against my own government, because of the police, the customs, and everyone else were dipping their dirty fingers into it.”

Duterte has waged a controversial all-out war on drugs in the Philippines since coming to power in June 2016, which police say has claimed the lives of more than 6,600 people. Independent monitors believe the number could be much higher than that. The United Nations Human Rights Council voted in July to open an investigation into the killings.

Robredo, Duterte said, was sacked for “talking to so many nations,” after she publicly expressed plans to meet with representatives from the United Nations and Washington. “I fired her in my mind … first day” after she said she would go to the US Embassy.

Following her firing, Robredo said she aims to publicize a report on her findings on the administration’s drug war.

During the wide-ranging interview with CNN Philippines this week, Duterte was questioned on a range of topics, from persistent concerns about his health to a recent report revealed by CNN which suggested the Chinese government potentially shut off the Philippines power grid.

In October, the Philippines leader revealed that he was suffering from a chronic neuromuscular disease called myasthenia gravis, which can cause weakness in the skeletal muscles.

When the interviewer suggested that he was constitutionally obligated to tell the public if he had any other serious health conditions, Duterte disagreed.

“The constitution does not require me. Look at me, do I look like I’m in pain?” he said. “Actually for the purposes of performing my functions are President, I’m alright.”

Duterte was also asked about an internal government report, seen by CNN, that claimed the Philippines’ power grid was under the full control of China and could be shut off in case of conflict between the two countries.

The Philippines leader questioned why the Chinese government would cut off the power when both countries were trying to do business together.

“Look China, we’re friends, we’re doing business, you want money, we want money, it produces money for both of us, now do you intend to cut it and for what reason?” he said.

Duterte warned that if the Chinese government moved to interfere with the Philippines’ power supply, there would be a “quarrel,” adding that “I may not overcome you but you will receive from me a mouthful.”