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MANILA: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday pushed for the revival of the death penalty through lethal injection for drug crimes.

The comments were part of his fifth annual  State of the Nation Address. Duterte urged Congress to pass the bill “to deter criminality in the country.”

“I reiterate the swift passage of a law reviving the death penalty by lethal injection for crimes specified under the Comprehensive Dangerous (Drugs) Act of 2002,” the 75-year-old former mayor of Davao City said, adding that the law would also “save the nation’s youth from the dangers posed by illegal and dangerous drugs.”

However, even as he pushed for the punishment to be brought back, Duterte said that his administration would not dodge its responsibility in fighting for human rights.

“My administration always believed that freedom from illegal drugs, terrorism, corruption, and criminality is itself a human right,” he said.

Since the start of his administration in 2016, Duterte has waged a bloody campaign against drugs that has been widely criticized by local groups and the international community.

In June this year the Philippines once again came under scrutiny when the UN Human Rights Council convened in Geneva.

During the session, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet gave the stark findings of her office’s report, which described widespread abuses as a result of Duterte’s war on drugs.

Also at the session, the Philippines Commission on Human Rights denounced the government’s “strong-arm” approach to enforce its brutal “drug war” which has reportedly killed thousands of people.

It led to groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International highlighting their own findings of serious rights violations in the country.

Philippine authorities say that around 5,600 people have died in Duterte’s drug war, but the country’s human rights commission claims the number could exceed 27,000.

In his address Duterte also gave telecom companies in the country, particularly SMART and GLOBE Telecom, until December to improve their services or “have their properties expropriated.”

“Find a way because if you are not ready to improve, I might just as well close all of you and we revert back to the line telephone and I will expropriate your (properties),” he warned. 

“Kindly improve the services before December. I want to call Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. Better have that line cleared, ” he said.

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