MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte's partner Honeylet Avanceña is standing by her man amid criticism his administration has received over deaths in his fierce war on drugs.
Speaking at the launch of the Philippine National Police's (PNP) community-based wellness program for over 1.3 million drug surrenderers, Avanceña said Duterte could not have ordered his police force to kill people.
"I can sense the goodness in his heart. Ang Presidente po nakaupo lang. But General dela Rosa [PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa] is right, he is also a lawyer. He will never instruct the PNP to kill people," said Avanceña.
"He is not like that. He is a lawyer, he should know that. It's not his cup of tea," she said of her partner, a former prosecutor.
Her comments were a rare response to criticism against Duterte's anti-narcotics program, which has drawn concern from human rights groups and governments all over the world for alleged police abuses.
The administration has many times defended the campaign, saying the state does not sanction extrajudicial killings. The President has also warned police against unlawful slays.
Avanceña also defended the anti-drug campaign after a non-commissioned survey showed that majority of Filipinos believe drug suspects were killed despite surrender.
"If there is a desire to just eradicate drug dependency, why put up drug rehabilitation centers in various parts of the country? I know may ginagawa na sa Davao," she said.
"If at all the desire of the PNP to conduct tokhang (knock and plead) is to kill drug addicts, why put up wellness recovery programs just like this?," she added.
She also took a swipe at Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, among the President's most vocal critics who has been linking Duterte to extrajudicial killings and corruption.
"You've seen it, Trillanes has been hitting us since a week before the election. Eh bakit buhay pa siya, di ba? Wala naman nangyayari eh, so it's not true," she said.
Avanceña was the keynote speaker at the signing of the memorandum of agreement between the PNP and Life Rispondé Foundation Corporation for the Life After Tokhang (LIFT) program, which seeks to assist drug pushers and users in their recovery from addiction.
Life Rispondé Foundation is a non-government, non-stock and non-profit organization that has been conducting community-based rehabilitation and outpatient recovery programs for drug users.
Police Director Noel Constantino, the PNP Director for Police Community Relations, earlier said the PNP LIFT program complements the drug rehabilitation and treatment program of the Department of Health.