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The War On Drugs: Duterte’s Crackdown on The Philippines’ Drug Market

Packets of shabu, a cheap form of methamphetamine, placed in front of arrested drug suspects in Manila, the Philippine capital, last month. Bullit Marquez/Associated Press

Rodrigo Duterte, the current and arguably most controversial Filipino President, has been lauded by the people for his political will and success in quickly implementing public policy. His critics, however, view him as an overwhelming tyrant, especially in his war against crime and drugs, as the amount of deaths soar to surprising heights.

Drugs In The Philippines

The dominant drug in the Philippines is a variant of methamphetamine; it is called shabu. According to a 2012 United Nations report, among all countries in East Asia, the Philippines had the highest rate of methamphetamine abuse. Estimates showed that about 2.2 percent of Filipinos between the ages of sixteen and sixty-four were using methamphetamine, and that methamphetamine and marijuana were the primary drugs of choice. In 2015, the National Drug Enforcement Agency reported that one fifth of barangays (neighborhoods), the smallest administrative division in the Philippines, had evidence of drug use, drug trafficking, or drug manufacturing. In Manila, the capital, 92 percent of the barangay had yielded such evidence. The immense use of drugs catalyzes the high percentage of crime in these small neighborhoods, which Duterte has been trying to control through his extrajudicial killings.

More than 2 million pesos worth of shabu was confiscated in Cebu. ABS CBN News

Duterte Before Office

Before becoming President, Duterte was the mayor of Davao City. Under Duterte, The Davao Death Squad had killed hundreds of drug users, drug dealers, and even children. Prior to his candidacy in 2015, Duterte had made it clear that it was his intention to eliminate all forms of crime by killing all criminals, no matter the means. “If by chance that God will place me there, watch out because the 1,000 [executed] will become 100,000. You will see the fish in Manila Bay getting fat. That is where I will dump you.” This anti drug sentiment had been the basis for his electoral platform. Following his election, Duterte continued to state unequivocally that his anti-drug campaign would focus on killing drug dealers and users. Speaking in Davao City on June 4, he stated: “If you are still into drugs, I am going to kill you. Don’t take this as a joke. I’m not trying to make you laugh. I’ll really kill you.” His rhetoric has been widely understood by the people as an endorsement of these extrajudicial killings, as it has created situations for people to feel that it’s appropriate to kill drug users and dealers.

Operation Double Barrel and Controversy

Since taking office on June 30, 2016, Duterte has carried out a war on drugs that has led to the deaths of over 12,000 Filipinos to date, mostly urban poor. At least 2,555 of the killings have been attributed to the Philippine National Police. Duterte and other senior officials have instigated and incited the killings in a campaign that could amount to crimes against humanity. This anti drug campaign, known as “Operation Double Barrel,” has targeted suspected drug dealers for arrest, but in actuality and in practice, has been a campaign of extrajudicial executions in impoverished areas of Manila and other urban area