ECLECTIC RANT:Philippines drug war in brief

Ralph E. Stone
Friday October 28, 2016 - 09:37:00 AM

In his inaugural State of the Nation Address on July 25, newly-elected Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte declared that there were 3.7 million “drug addicts” in the Philippines. But according to a 2015 survey by the Office of the President’s Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), the main drug policy and research unit, the Philippines has fewer than half that many drug users.

Whether the drug problem in the Philippines is as drastic as Duterte makes out, since assuming the presidency of the Philippines in June, more than 3,000 suspected drug dealers and traffickers have been killed in his war on drugs. Many of those executions have been carried out via the Philippine National Police (PNP), who have aggressively worked to locate and punish all individuals linked to the movement of drugs under the president’s new anti-crime agenda. But vigilantes, empowered by Duterte’s rhetoric and call for citizen action, have also taken matters into their own hands, with staggering results. While the PNP have been responsible for approximately 712 deaths, individual citizens have been linked to 1,067.  


Faced with a real or exaggerated drug epidemic and no end in sight, it is not surprising that many citizens found a hero in Duterte, who promised quick results and brought with him a record of no-nonsense anti-crime vigilance. 

But Duterte’s approach is drastic. In addition to encouraging police to crack down hard on suspected drug dealers, the president has also called upon private citizens to do the same. “Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun — you have my support,” he told viewers in a televised speech shortly after his election. “Shoot…[dealers] and I’ll give you a medal.” 

The killings have alarmed rights groups and brought expressions of concern from the United States and the United Nations.  

The Philippine Senate's Justice and Human Rights Committee conducted hearings to investigate the rampant extrajudicial drug-related killings in the country. Senator Leila de Lima, a Duterte nemesis, is a human rights advocate and former justice secretary, has said that foreign intervention was the only hope of putting an end to “state-inspired” extrajudicial murders that have terrorised parts of the population since president Rodrigo Duterte came to power four months ago.  

However, Senator Richard Gordon suspended the inquiry after a heated debate with Senator Leila de Lima. De Lima faced a backlash from Duterte’s supporters, led by Manny Pacquiao, the former boxer, and now a senator. DeLima was ousted as committee chair, then she began to receive death threats. 

Duterte is a Ferdinand Marcos fan. He plans to bury Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, the Heroes’ Cemetery. Many Filipinos believe Marcos does not deserve to be buried in the Heroes' Cemetery. 

Remember Marcos was President of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. Citing an armed communist insurgency, Marcos placed the Philippines under martial law on September 23, 1972, during which he revamped the constitution, silenced the media, and used violence and oppression against political opposition, and ruled as dictator under martial law from 1972 until 1986. His regime also became infamous for its corruption, extravagance, and brutality. Public outrage led to the snap elections of 1986 and to the People Power Revolution in February 1986, which removed him from power. To avoid what could have been a military confrontation in Manila between pro- and anti-Marcos troops, Marcos was advised by President Ronald Reagan through Senator Paul Laxalt to "cut and cut cleanly," after which Marcos fled to Hawaii. Marcos was succeeded by Corazon Aquino, widow of the assassinated opposition leader Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., who had flown back to the Philippines to face the dictator. 

What is the future of Philippines under Rodrigo Duterte? Is the country heading toward another Marcos Philippines?