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MANILA (Reuters) – Philippines President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Thursday his predecessor had asked him to continue his “war on drugs”, a controversial campaign against narcotics that has led to the deaths of thousands of Filipinos .

Incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte launched a crackdown on drug suspects when he took power in 2016.

According to official data, more than 6,000 Filipinos have been killed in the anti-drug campaign. International rights groups put the death toll at between 12,000 and 30,000.

In the first media address since his proclamation as the next president, Marcos said Duterte told him it was important the campaign continued.

“I fully appreciate what he said,” the new chief told reporters. “The drug problem in the country continues to be a problem and we need to keep looking in that direction.”

He said Duterte told him to continue the campaign on his own terms.

“’Continue the drug (war) that I started. Do it your way. Do what you want with it, but don’t put it aside because it’s the young people who will suffer. Their lives would be ruined,” he added, quoting Duterte.

The Philippines has come under pressure from the UN to investigate allegations of systematic killings as part of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.

International Criminal Court investigators launched an investigation into the war on drugs in September last year, saying it was “a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population” and that it could constitute a crime against humanity.

The investigation was suspended two months later to assess a request for a postponement from the Philippine government and has not resumed since.

Marcos, the son and namesake of the late dictator of the Philippines, and his running mate Sara Duterte-Carpio, the incumbent president’s daughter, were declared the winners of the May 9 election, succeeding Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo, who will finish their six one-year terms as of June 30.

It was not immediately clear how Marcos planned to implement the anti-drug campaign, but one of his campaign promises was a continuation of Duterte’s policies.

The executive and press officers appointed by the new administration did not respond to repeated attempts to reach them on Thursday.


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