MANILA -- President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Thursday, October 19, expressed zero tolerance for corrupt public officials and tax-evading businessmen who are shortchanging the Filipino public.

The President said this as he graced the concluding ceremony of the 43rd Philippine Business Conference (PBC) and Exposition of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) at the Manila Hotel.

In his speech, President Duterte recalled the three priority areas of his administration, which included ending graft and corruption in government, fighting the drug menace, and dealing with enemies of the State.

"I told you, I will take care to attain peace, take care of the economy. That is my article of faith. Unless we are really freed of the so many crimes and so many movements, rebellions, the Philippines would always be in a struggle," he said.

For one, the Chief Executive reiterated his unrelenting commitment to cleanse the government of grafters and corrupt officials. "I’ve always believed that what was really pulling down the country was corruption," he noted.

The President announced that he recently fired an undersecretary of the Department of Budget and Management over issues of corruption. "Didn’t they tell you I do not like corruption? I just fired the undersecretary of DBM, Office of the Budget. He was lucky because there were so many people... I fired him for corruption," the President said.

He also said he fired three employees from his own office due to influence-peddling. The President then reminded fellow government employees to practice a more modest lifestyle.He then urged his Cabinet members to refrain from using special plates and from traveling via first-class flights.

President Duterte also warned against tax evasion, as he reminded the business sector to make sure they pay their proper dues to the government.

"If there’s anything that you want me to do to improve business and earn more and pay more fully, do not cheat me on the taxes," he said.

The President further explained the rationale for his campaign against all forms of criminality, particularly illegal drugs. He pointed out that communists and international human rights groups had been biased against his policies.

"When they get the invitation to come here in my country, it’s only the Reds, the communists, out of disgrace, the government and the human rights guys who are mostly also on the left, they only show the number of people killed, allegedly extrajudicial killing," he said.

"They have not bothered to give the statistics that we have been a narco-politics six years ago although we did not realize it until I became President," he added.

He also decried the critics' neglect of the thousands of Filipinos who fell victim to drug personalities. On the other hand, the Chief Executive remained firm in his campaign to end the country's drug problem.

"Whether it is really acceptable to the world or not, I will do what I have to do and I will just follow the Constitution," he said.

Martial law to remain in Mindanao

Meanwhile, the Commander-in-Chief guaranteed the safety of Filipinos in Mindanao following his declaration of the liberation of Marawi.

He echoed the military and the police's warning that terrorists may continue to retaliate even as the top leaders of the Maute terrorists had been neutralized. As such, the President stressed that martial law would continue to prevail in the region. (PND)