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Rodrigo Duterte to address Philippine Congress amid protests

World News | Published:

The leader has been criticised for brutal anti-drug campaign.

Philippine Rodrigo Duterte

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will address a joint session of a Congress led by his allies as thousands of protesters gather to call for his removal.

Mr Duterte’s is expected to press his priorities like reinstating the death penalty and amending the pro-democracy constitution at the state of the nation address at the House of Representatives.

Outside thousands of protesters are beginning to mass, calling for him to step aside over issues including his brutal anti-drug campaign.

Riot police and troops have been placed on full alert, and authorities have declared a no-fly zone over the venue and outlying areas to ensure security.

Philippines Duterte
Protesters are massing in the Philippine capital (Bullit Marquez/AP)

Mr Duterte, 74, took office in June 2016 and has remained hugely popular based on opinion polls despite his bloody crackdown on illegal drugs, which has sparked international alarm, and other controversial policies.

More of his allies captured congressional seats in midterm elections in May, giving them a tighter grip on the legislature, especially in the 24-member Senate, which opposed some of his key legislative proposals last year.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Mr Duterte would likely discuss his plans to press on with his battle against illegal drugs and criminality, corruption, communist and Muslim insurgencies and ways to sustain economic growth in his final three years in power.

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Other aides said the president may touch on a resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in a vote in Geneva two weeks ago for the UN’s top human rights body to look into the thousands of deaths of suspects under his anti-drug crackdown.

Philippines Duterte
Thousands have objected to the killings in Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called war on drugs (Bullit Marquez/AP)

Mr Duterte’s officials have lashed out at the resolution as Western meddling in the country’s anti-crime efforts.

Mr Panelo said the president was considering cutting diplomatic ties with Iceland, which initiated the resolution.

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Human rights groups, however, have lauded the resolution as crucial to helping end the drug killings and bringing perpetrators to justice.

Officials have reported that more than 5,000 to 6,000 mostly poor drug suspects have died in the campaign after they allegedly fired back at law enforcers during raids.

Rights groups have questioned the police reports and accused the police of committing extrajudicial killings.

Monday’s protests were expected to highlight outrage over the killings and Mr Duterte’s recent pronouncement that he has forged an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow Chinese fishermen to fish in the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Critics say Mr Duterte’s action violated the constitution, which requires presidents to protect the country’s territory and sovereign rights.

Protesters burned a mock Chinese flag hours before the president’s speech and wore shirts with slogans that read: “The Philippines is ours, China get out.”

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