Philippine Drug War

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Philippine Drug War
Rodrigo Duterte showing diagram of drug trade network 1 7.7.16.jpg
Duterte shows a diagram of drug syndicates at a press conference on July 7, 2016.
DateJuly 1, 2016 – present
(2 years, 4 months and 18 days)
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures

92 killed (Police and military)[11][12]

4,854 killed in official police operations (Philippine government statistics)[13]

20,000 (Senator Antonio Trillanes claim)[14][15]

The "Philippine Drug War", or "War on Drugs", refers to the drug policy of the Philippine government under President Rodrigo Duterte, who assumed office on June 30, 2016. According to Philippine National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa, the policy is aimed at "the neutralization [ie., killing] of illegal drug personalities nationwide".[16] Duterte has urged members of the public to kill suspected criminals and drug addicts.[17] Research by media organizations and human rights groups has shown that police routinely execute unarmed drug suspects and then plant guns and drugs as evidence. Philippine authorities have denied misconduct by police.[18][19]

The policy has been widely condemned locally and internationally for the number of deaths resulting from police operations and allegations of systematic extrajudicial executions. The policy is supported by the majority of the local population, as well as by leaders or representatives of certain countries such as China, Japan and the United States.[20][7][21]

Estimates of the death toll vary. News organizations and human rights groups have put the figure at over 12,000.[22][23] The victims included 54 children in the first year.[23] The government claimed 4,200 have been killed as of April 30, 2018.[22] Opposition senators claimed in 2018 that over 20,000 have been killed.[24][25]

In February 2018, the International Criminal Court in The Hague announced a "preliminary examination" into killings linked to the Philippine Drug War since at least July 1, 2016.


Rodrigo Duterte won the 2016 Philippine presidential election promising to kill tens of thousands of criminals, and urging people to kill drug addicts.[17] As Mayor of Davao City, Duterte was criticized by groups like Human Rights Watch for the extrajudicial killings of hundreds of street children, petty criminals and drug users carried out by the Davao Death Squad, a vigilante group with which he was allegedly involved.[26][27][28] Duterte has alternately confirmed and denied his involvement in the alleged Davao Death Squad killings.[29] Duterte has benefited from reports in the national media that he made Davao into one of the world's safest cities, which he cites as justification for his drug policy,[30][31][32] although national police data shows that the city has the highest murder rate and the second highest rape rate in the Philippines.[33][34]

Philippine anti-narcotic officials have admitted that Duterte uses flawed and exaggerated data to support his claim that the Philippines is becoming a "narco-state".[35] The Philippines has a low prevalence rate of drug users compared to the global average, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).[36] Duterte said in his state of the nation address that data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency shows that there were 3 million drug addicts 2 to 3 years ago, which he said may have increased to 3.7 million. However, according to the Philippine Dangerous Drugs Board, the government drug policy-making body, 1.8 million Filipinos used illegal drugs (mostly marijuana) in 2015, the latest official survey published; a third of them had used illegal drugs only once in the past 13 months.[37][35]

Major events[edit]

Early months[edit]

In speeches made after his inauguration on June 30, Duterte urged citizens to kill suspected criminals and drug addicts. He said he would order police to adopt a shoot-to-kill policy, and would offer them a bounty for dead suspects.[17] In a speech to military leadership on July 1, Duterte told Communist rebels to "use your kangaroo courts to kill them to speed up the solution to our problem".[38] On July 2, the Communist Party of the Philippines stated that it "reiterates its standing order for the NPA to carry out operations to disarm and arrest the chieftains of the biggest drug syndicates, as well as other criminal syndicates involved in human rights violations and destruction of the environment" after its political wing Bagong Alyansang Makabayan accepted Cabinet posts in the new government.[39][40] On July 3, the Philippine National Police announced they had killed 30 alleged drug dealers since Duterte was sworn in as president on June 30.[41][42] They later stated they had killed 103 suspects between May 10 and July 7.[43] On July 9, a spokesperson of the president told critics to show proof that there have been human rights violations in the Drug War.[43][44] Later that day, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front announced it was open to collaborate with police in the Drug War.[45] On August 3, Duterte said that the Sinaloa cartel and the Chinese triad are involved in the Philippine drug trade.[46] On August 7, Duterte named more than 150 drug suspects including local politicians, police, judges, and military.[47][48] On August 8, the United States expressed concerns over the extrajudicial killings.[49]

A presidential spokesperson said that Duterte welcomed a proposed Congressional investigation into extrajudicial killings to be chaired by Senator Leila de Lima, his chief critic in the government.[46] On August 17, Duterte announced that de Lima had been having an affair with a married man, her driver, Ronnie Palisoc Dayan. Duterte claimed that Dayan was her collector for drug money, who had also himself been using drugs.[50] In a news conference on August 21, Duterte announced that he had in his possession wiretaps and ATM records which confirmed his allegations. He stated: "What is really crucial here is that because of her [romantic] relationship with her driver which I termed 'immoral' because the driver has a family and wife, that connection gave rise to the corruption of what was happening inside the national penitentiary." Dismissing fears for Dayan's safety, he added, "As the President, I got this information … as a privilege. But I am not required to prove it in court. That is somebody else's business. My job is to protect public interest. She's lying through her teeth." He explained that he had acquired the new evidence from an unnamed foreign country.[51]

On August 18, United Nations human rights experts called on the Philippines to halt extrajudicial killings. Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions, stated that Duterte had given a "license to kill" to his citizens by encouraging them to kill.[52][53] In response, Duterte threatened to withdraw from the UN and form a separate group with African nations and China. Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella later clarified that the Philippines was not leaving the UN.[54] As the official death toll reached 1,800, a Congressional investigation of the killings chaired by de Lima was opened.[55]

On August 23, Chito Gascon, head of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, told the Senate committee that the International Criminal Court may have jurisdiction over the mass killings.[56] On August 25, Duterte released a "drug matrix" supposedly linking government officials, including de Lima, with the New Bilibid Prison drug trafficking scandal.[57] De Lima stated that the "drug matrix" was like something drawn by a 12-year-old child. She added, "I will not dignify any further this so-called 'drug matrix' which, any ordinary lawyer knows too well, properly belongs in the garbage can."[58][59] On August 29, Duterte called on de Lima to resign and "hang herself".[60]

State of emergency[edit]

Following the September 2 bombing in Davao City that killed 14 people in the city's central business district, on September 3, 2016, Duterte declared a "state of lawlessness", and on the following day signed a declaration of a "state of national emergency on account of lawless violence in Mindanao".[61][62] The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police were ordered to "suppress all forms of lawless violence in Mindanao" and to "prevent lawless violence from spreading and escalating elsewhere". Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said that the declaration "does not specify the imposition of curfews", and would remain in force indefinitely. He explained: "The recent incidents, the escape of terrorists from prisons, the beheadings, then eventually what happened in Davao. That was the basis."[63][62] The state of emergency has been seen as an attempt by Duterte to "enhance his already strong hold on power, and give him carte blanche to impose further measures" in the Drug War.[64]

At the 2016 ASEAN Summit, US President Barack Obama cancelled scheduled meetings with Duterte to discuss extrajudicial killings after Duterte referred to Obama as a "son of a whore".[65][66]

Senate committee[edit]

On September 19, 2016, the Senate voted 16-4 to remove de Lima from her position heading the Senate committee, in a motion brought by senator and boxer Manny Pacquiao.[67] Duterte's allies in the Senate argued that de Lima had damaged the country's reputation by allowing the testimony of Edgar Matobato. She was replaced by Senator Richard Gordon, a supporter of Duterte.[68] Matobato had testified that while working for the Davao Death Squad he had killed more than 50 people. He said that he had witnessed Duterte killing a government agent, and he had heard Duterte giving orders to carry out executions, including ordering the bombing of mosques as retaliation for an attack on a cathedral.[69]

Duterte told reporters that he wanted "a little extension of maybe another six months" in the Drug War, as there were so many drug offenders and criminals that he "cannot kill them all".[70][71] On the following day, a convicted bank robber and two former prison officials testified that they had paid bribes to de Lima. She denies the allegations.[72] In a speech on September 20, Duterte promised to protect police in the Drug War:

For as long as I am the president, nobody but nobody – no military man or policeman will go to prison because they performed their duties. ... If [drug suspects] pull out a gun, kill them. If they don't, kill them, son of a whore so it's over, lest you lose the gun. I'll take care of you.[73][74]

At a press conference on September 30, Duterte appeared to make a comparison between the Drug War and The Holocaust.[75][76] He said that "Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now there are three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them."[75] His remarks generated an international outcry. United States Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the statement was "deeply troubling".[77][78] The German government told the Philippine ambassador that Duterte's remarks were "unacceptable."[79] On October 2, Duterte announced, "I apologize profoundly and deeply to the Jewish". He explained, "It's not really that I said something wrong but rather they don't really want you to tinker with the memory".[80][81]

At the beginning of October, a senior police officer told The Guardian that 10 "special ops" official police death squads had been operating, each consisting of 15 police officers. The officer said that he had personally been involved in killing 87 suspects, and described how the corpses had their heads wrapped in masking tape with a cardboard placard labelling them as a drug offender so that the killing would not be investigated, or they were dumped at the roadside ("salvage" victims). The chairman of the Philippines Commission on Human Rights, Chito Gascon, was quoted in the report: "I am not surprised, I have heard of this." The PNP declined to comment. The report stated: "although the Guardian can verify the policeman's rank and his service history, there is no independent, official confirmation for the allegations of state complicity and police coordination in mass murder."[82]

On October 28, Datu Saudi Ampatuan Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom and nine others, including his five bodyguards, were killed during an anti-illegal drug operation in Makilala, North Cotabato. According to police, the group were heavily armed and opened fire on police, who found sachets of methamphetamine at the scene. No police were injured.[83][84] Dimaukom was among the drug list named by Duterte on August 7; he had immediately surrendered, and then returned to Datu Saudi Ampatuan.[85]

On November 1, it was reported that the US State Department had halted the sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the PNP after opposition from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee due to concerns about human rights violations. A police spokesman said they had not been informed. PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa suggested China as a possible alternative supplier.[86][87] On November 7, Duterte reacted to the US decision to halt the sale by announcing that he was "ordering its cancellation".[88]

In the early morning of November 5, Mayor of Albuera, Rolando Espinosa Sr., who had been detained at Baybay City Sub-Provincial Jail for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, was killed in what was described as a shootout inside his jail cell with personnel from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).[89] According to the CIDG, Espinosa opened fire on police agents who were executing a search warrant for "illegal firearms."[90] A hard drive of CCTV footage which may have recorded the shooting of Espinosa is missing, a provincial official said.[91] Espinosa had turned himself in to PNP after being named in Duterte's drug list in August.[92][93] He was briefly released but then re-arrested for alleged drug possession. The president of the National Union of People's Lawyers, Edre Olalia, told local broadcaster TV5 that the police version of events was "too contrived". He pointed out that a search warrant is not required to search a jail cell. "Such acts make a mockery of the law, taunt impunity and insult ordinary common sense." Espinosa was the second public official to be killed in the Drug War.[94][95]

Following the incident, on the same day, Senator Panfilo Lacson sought to resume the investigation of extrajudicial killings after it was suspended on October 3 by the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights.[96][97]

On November 28, Duterte appeared to threaten that human rights workers would be targeted: "The human rights [defenders] say I kill. If I say: 'Okay, I'll stop'. They [drug users] will multiply. When harvest time comes, there will be more of them who will die. Then I will include you among them because you let them multiply." Amnesty International Philippines stated that Duterte was "inciting hate towards anyone who expresses dissent on his war against drugs." The National Alliance against Killings Philippines stated: "His comment - that human rights is part of the drug problem and, as such, human rights advocates should be targeted too - can be interpreted as a declaration of an open season on human rights defenders".[98]

On December 5 Reuters reported that 97% of drug suspects shot by police died, far more than in other countries with drug-related violence. They also stated that police reports of killings are "remarkably similar", involving a "buy-bust" operation in which the suspect panics and shoots at the officers, who return fire, killing the suspect, and report finding a packet of white powder and a .38 caliber revolver, often with the serial number removed.

The figures pose a powerful challenge to the official narrative that the Philippines police are only killing drug suspects in self-defense. These statistics and other evidence amassed by Reuters point in the other direction: that police are pro-actively gunning down suspects.[99]

On December 8, the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights issued a report stating that there was "no evidence sufficient to prove that a Davao Death Squad exists", and "no proof that there is a state-sponsored policy to commit killings to eradicate illegal drugs in the country." Eleven senators signed the report, while senators Leila De Lima, JV Ejercito, Antonio Trillanes IV and Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto did not sign the report or did not subscribe to its findings.[100]

Temporary cessation of police drug operations[edit]

Following criticism of the police over the kidnapping and killing of Jee Ick-Joo, a South Korean businessman, Duterte ordered the police to suspend drug-related operations while ordering the military and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to continue drug operations.

Amnesty International investigation[edit]

On January 31, 2017, Amnesty International published a report of their investigation of 59 drug-related killings in 20 cities and towns, "If you are poor you are killed": Extrajudicial Executions in the Philippines' "War on Drugs", which "details how the police have systematically targeted mostly poor and defenceless people across the country while planting 'evidence', recruiting paid killers, stealing from the people they kill and fabricating official incident reports." They stated: "Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the deliberate, widespread and systematic killings of alleged drug offenders, which appear to be planned and organized by the authorities, may constitute crimes against humanity under international law."[5]

A police officer with the rank of Senior Police Officer 1, a ten-year veteran of a Metro Manila anti-illegal drugs unit, told AI that police are paid 8,000 pesos (US $161) to 15,000 pesos (US $302) per "encounter" (the term used for extrajudicial executions disguised as legitimate operations); there is no payment for making arrests. He said that some police also receive a payment from the funeral home they send the corpses to. Hitmen hired by police are paid 5,000 pesos (US $100) for each drug user killed and 10,000 to 15,000 pesos (US $200–300) for each "drug pusher" killed, according to two hitmen interviewed by AI.[5]

Family members and witnesses repeatedly contested the police description of how people were killed. Police descriptions bore striking similarities from incident to incident; official police reports in several cases documented by Amnesty International claim the suspect’s gun “malfunctioned” when he tried to fire at police, after which they shot and killed him. In many instances, the police try to cover up unlawful killings or ensure convictions for those arrested during drug-related operations by planting “evidence” at crime scenes and falsifying incident reports—both practices the police officer said were common.

— Amnesty International report “If you are poor you are killed”: Extrajudicial Executions in the Philippines’ “War on Drugs”[101]

The report makes a series of recommendations to Duterte and government officials and departments. If certain key steps are not swiftly taken, it recommends that the International Criminal Court "initiate a preliminary examination into unlawful killings in the Philippines’s violent anti-drug campaign and related crimes under the Rome Statute, including the involvement of government officials, irrespective of rank and status."[101]

The Guardian and Reuters stated that the report added to evidence they had published previously about police extrajudicial executions. Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella responded to the report, saying that Senate committee investigations proved that there had been no state-sponsored extrajudicial killings.[102][103] In an interview on February 4, Duterte told a reporter that Amnesty International was "so naive and so stupid", and "a creation of [George] Soros". He asked, "Is that the only thing you [de Lima] can produce? The report of Amnesty?"[104]

De Lima was jailed on February 24, awaiting trial on charges related to allegations made by Duterte in August 2016.[105] A court date has not been set.[106]

Arturo Lascañas[edit]

On February 20, Arturo Lascañas, a retired police officer, told reporters at a press conference outside the senate building that as a leader of the Davao Death Squad he had carried out extrajudicial killings on the orders of Duterte. He said death squad members were paid 20,000 to 100,000 pesos ($400 to $2,000) per hit, depending on the importance of the target. He gave details of various killings he had carried out on Duterte's orders, including the previously unsolved murder of a radio show host critical of Duterte, and confessed to his involvement with Matobato in the bombing of a mosque on Duterte's orders.[107][108] On the following day the senate voted in a private session to reopen the investigation, reportedly by a margin of ten votes to eight, with five abstentions.[109]

When Mayor Duterte sat down as mayor for the first time, we started what is called "salvaging" of people, these people are suspects committing crime in Davao. We implemented the personal orders of Mayor Duterte to us.

— Arturo Lascanas, February 20, 2017[107]

On March 6, Lascanas gave evidence at the Senate committee, testifying that he had killed approximately 200 criminal suspects, media figures and political opponents on Duterte's orders.[110]

Allegations of police using hospitals to hide killings[edit]

In June 2017 Reuters reported that "Police were sending corpses to hospitals to destroy evidence at crime scenes and hide the fact that they were executing drug suspects." Doctors stated that corpses loaded onto trucks were being dumped at hospitals, sometimes after rigor mortis had already set in, with clearly unsurvivable wounds, having been shot in the chest and head at close range. Reuters examined data from two Manila police districts, and found that the proportion of suspects sent to hospitals, where they are pronounced dead on arrival (DOA), increased from 13% in July 2016 to 85% in January 2017; "The totals grew along with international and domestic condemnation of Duterte's campaign."[111]

Ozamiz raid, and death of Reynaldo Parojinog[edit]

On July 30, Reynaldo Parojinog, the mayor of Ozamiz City, was killed along with 14 others, including his wife Susan, in a dawn raid at around 2:30 am on his home in San Roque Lawis.[112][113] According to police, they were on a search warrant when Parojinog's bodyguards opened fire on them and police officers responded by shooting at them. According to police provincial chief Jaysen De Guzman, authorities recovered grenades, ammunition and illegal drugs in the raid.[114][115]

"One-time, big-time" operations[edit]

On August 16, over 32 people were killed in multiple "one-time, big-time" antidrug operations in Bulacan within one day.[116] On Manila, 25 people, including 11 suspected robbers, were also killed in consecutive anti-criminality operations.[117] The multiple deaths in the large-scale antidrug operations received condemnation from human rights groups and the majority of the Senate.[118][119]

Youth casualties[edit]

On August 17, Kian Loyd delos Santos, a 17-year-old Grade 11 student, was shot dead in an antidrug operation in Caloocan.[120][121] CCTV footage appeared to show Kian being dragged by two policemen. Police say they killed him in self-defense, and retrieved a gun and two packets of methamphetamine.[120] Delos Santos was the son of an overseas Filipino worker, a key demographic in support of Duterte.[122] The teenager's death caused condemnation by senators.[123][124] His funeral on August 25, attended by more than a thousand people, was one of the largest protests to date against the Drug War.[125]

Carl Angelo Arnaiz, a 19-year-old teenager, last found in Cainta, Rizal, was tortured and shot dead also on August 17 (the same date Kian delos Santos was killed) by police after robbing a taxi in Caloocan.[126] His 14-year-old friend, Reynaldo de Guzman, also called under the nickname "Kulot", was stabbed to death thirty times and thrown into a creek in Gapan, Nueva Ecija. Along with the deaths of Kian delos Santos, the deaths of the two teenagers also triggered public outrage and condemnation.[127]

Human Rights Watch repeated their call for a UN investigation. HRW Asia director Phelim Kine commented: "The apparent willingness of Philippine police to deliberately target children for execution marks an appalling new level of depravity in this so-called drug war".[128] Duterte called the deaths of Arnaiz and de Guzman (the former being a relative of the President on his mother's side) a "sabotage", believing that some groups are using the Philippine National Police to destroy the president's public image.[129] Presidential spokesman Abella said "It should not come as a surprise that these malignant elements would conspire to sabotage the president’s campaign to rid the Philippines of illegal drugs and criminality", which "may include creating scenarios stoking public anger against the government".[128]

On August 23, 2016, a 5-year-old student named Danica May Garcia was killed by a stray bullet coming from the unidentified gunmen in Dagupan City, Pangasinan during an anti-drug operation.[130] Another minor, 4-year old Skyler Abatayo of Cebu was killed through an 'anti-drug operation'. Duterte insisted that the child was killed by drug suspects, not by his police force.[131] In the first year of the Drug War, 54 children were recorded as casualties.[23]

Reshuffling of the Caloocan City Police[edit]

As a result of involvement in the deaths of teenagers like Kian delos Santos, and Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman, and robbing of a drug suspect in an antidrug raid, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Oscar Albayalde ordered the firing and retraining of all members of the Caloocan City Police, with the exception of its newly appointed chief and its deputy.[132]

Transfer of anti-drug operations to PDEA[edit]

On October 12, 2017, Duterte announced the transfer of anti-drug operations to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), ending the involvement of the Philippine National Police (PNP). The announcement followed the publication of an opinion poll on October 8, showing a drop in presidential approval from 66% to 48%.[133] This is amidst the political storm and public outrage on the murders of minors by the Caloocan City police, and the various murder cases allegedly done by other law enforcement agents that surfaced in mainstream and social media.[134] In a televised speech, Duterte scoffed and mocked the "bleeding hearts" who sympathized with those killed in the drug war, pointedly at the European Union, whom he accused of interfering with Philippine sovereignty.[135]

Rodrigo Duterte's refutation to ASEAN representatives[edit]

In a speech before ASEAN representatives, Rodrigo Duterte refuted all extrajudicial killings related to the War on Drugs by stating that these stories only serve as a political agenda in order to demonize him. He stated that he has only used his mouth to tell drug users that they will be killed. He stated that "..."shabu" (crystal meth) users have shrunken brains, which is why they have become violent and aggressive, leading to their deaths."[136] Duterte further added that all the drug pushers and their henchmen always carry their guns with them and killing them is justifiable so that they would not endanger the lives of his men.[137] Duterte appointed a human rights lawyer, Harry Roque, a Kabayan partylist representative, as his spokesperson. Roque stated that he will change public perception by reducing the impact of the statements by which Duterte advocates extra-judicial killings in his war on drugs.[138]


In a speech on March 26, 2018, Duterte said that human rights groups "have become unwitting tools of drug lords". Human Rights Watch denied the allegation, calling it "shockingly dangerous and shameful".[139]

Consecutive assassinations of local government officials[edit]

The controversial Tanauan, Batangas mayor Antonio Halili was assassinated by an unknown sniper during a flag-raising ceremony on July 2, 2018, becoming the 11th local government official to be killed in the Drug War. On the following day, Ferdinand Bote, mayor of General Tinio, was shot dead in his vehicle in Cabanatuan City.[140][141]

International Criminal Court[edit]

The International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda expressed concern, over the drug-related killings in the country, on October 13, 2016.[142] In her statement, Bensouda said that the high officials of the country "seem to condone such killings and further seem to encourage State forces and civilians alike to continue targeting these individuals with lethal force."[143] She also warns that any person in the country who provoke "in acts of mass violence by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing, in any other manner, to the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of ICC" will be prosecuted before the court.[144] About that, Duterte is open for the investigation by the ICC, Malacañang said.[144]

In February 2018, the ICC announced a “preliminary examination” into killings linked to the Philippine government's “war on drugs”. Prosecutor Bensouda said the court will “analyze crimes allegedly committed in [the Philippines] since at least 1 July 2016.” Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque dismissed the ICC's decision as a “waste of the court’s time and resources”.[145][146][147] In March, Duterte announced his intention to withdraw the Philippines from the ICC tribunal, which is a process that takes a year.[148][139]

In August 2018, activists and eight families of victims of the Drug War filed a second petition with the ICC, accusing Duterte of murder and crimes against humanity, and calling for his indictment for thousands of extrajudicial killings, which according to the 50-page complaint included "brazen" executions by police acting with impunity. Neri Colmenares, a lawyer acting for the group, said that "Duterte is personally liable for ordering state police to undertake mass killings". Duterte threatened to arrest the ICC prosecutor Bensouda.[149]



Senator Risa Hontiveros, an opponent of Duterte, said that the Drug War was a political strategy intended to persuade people that "suddenly the historically most important issue of poverty was no longer the most important."[37] De Lima expressed frustration with the attitude of Filipinos towards extrajudicial killing: "they think that it's good for peace and order. We now have death squads on a national scale, but I'm not seeing public outrage."[37] According to a Pulse Asia opinion poll conducted from July 2 to 8, 2016, 91% of Filipinos "trusted" Duterte.[150] A survey conducted between February and May 2017, by PEW research center, found that 78% of the Filipinos support the drug war.[151] A survey in September 2017 showed 88% support for the Drug War, while 73% believed that extrajudicial executions were occurring.[20]

Dela Rosa announced in September 2016 that the Drug War had "reduced the supply of illegal drugs in the country by some 80 to 90 percent",[152] and said that the War was already being won, based on statistical and observational evidence.[153] Aljazeera reported that John Collins, director of the London School of Economics International Drug Policy Project, said: "Targeting the supply side can have short-term effects. However, these are usually limited to creating market chaos rather than reducing the size of the market. ... What you learn is that you're going to war with a force of economics and the force of economics tends to win out: supply, demand and price tend to find their own way." He said it was a "certainty" that "the Philippines' new 'war' will fail and society will emerge worse off from it."[37] In June 2017 the price of methamphetamine on the streets of Manila was lower than it had been at the start of Duterte's presidency, according to Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency data. Gloria Lai of the International Drug Policy Consortium commented: "If prices have fallen, it's an indication that enforcement actions have not been effective".[154]

The Chairman of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., quelled fears that foreign investors might be put off by the increasing rate of killings in the country, explaining at a press conference on September 19, 2016, that investors only care about profit: "They don't care if 50 percent of Filipinos are killing each other so long as they're not affected".[155] On the following day the Wall Street Journal reported that foreign investors, who account for half of the activity on the Philippine Stock Exchange, had been "hightailing it out of town", selling $500 million worth of shares over the past month, putting pressure on the Philippine peso which was close to its weakest point since 2009.[156]

The Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Tagle acknowledged that people were right to be "worried about extrajudicial killings", along with other "form[s] of murder": abortion, unfair labor practices, wasting food, and "selling illegal drugs, pushing the youth to go into vices".[157]


Protest against the Philippine war on drugs in front of the Philippine Consulate General in New York City. The protesters are holding placards which urge Duterte to stop killing drug users.

During his official state visit to the Philippines in January 2017, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said: "On countering illegal drugs, we want to work together with the Philippines through relevant measures of support". He offered financial assistance for Philippine drug rehabilitation centres, and made no mention of deaths resulting from the drug war. He announced a $800 million Official Development Assistance package to "promote economic and infrastructure development".[158]

Gary Song-Huann Lin, the representative of Taiwan in the Philippines, welcomed Duterte's plan to declare a war against criminality and illegal drugs. He said Taiwan is ready to help the Philippines combat cross-border crimes like human and drug trafficking.[159]

On July 19, 2016, Lingxiao Li, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Manila, announced China's support for the Drug War: "China fully understands that the Philippine government under the leadership of H. E. President Rodrigo Duterte has taken it as a top priority to crack down drug-related crimes. China has expressed explicitly to the new administration China's willingness for effective cooperation in this regard, and would like to work out a specific plan of action with the Philippine side." The statement made no reference to extrajudicial killings, and called illegal drugs the "common enemy of mankind".[160][161][162] On September 27, the Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua reiterated that "Illegal drugs are the enemy of all mankind" in a statement confirming Chinese support for the Duterte administration.[163]

Indonesian National Police Chief General Tito Karnavian commented in regards to Indonesia's rejection of a similar policy for Indonesia: "Shoot on sight policy leads to abuse of power. We still believe in the presumption of innocence. Lethal actions are only warranted if there is an immediate threat against officers... there should not be a deliberate attempt to kill".[164] In September 2016 Budi Waseso, head of Indonesia's National Anti-Narcotics Agency (BNN), said that he was currently contemplating copying the Philippines' hardline tactics against drug traffickers. He said that the Agency planned a major increase in armaments and recruitment. An Agency spokesman later attempted to downplay the comments, stating: "We can't shoot criminals just like that, we have to follow the rules."[165] Most recently, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo used the language of “emergency” to ramp up the country's war on drugs, in a move that observers see as "in step with Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s" own campaign against the illegal drug trade.[166]

On October 16, prior to Duterte's departure for a state visit to Brunei, the President said he would seek the support of that country for his campaign against illegal drugs and Brunei's continued assistance to achieve peace and progress in Mindanao.[167] This was responded positively from Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah in the next day according to Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr.[168] Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said "he respect the method undertaken by the Philippine government as it is suitable for their country situation", while stressing that "Malaysia will never follow such example as we have our own methods with one of those such as seizing assets used in drug trafficking with resultant funds to be channelled back towards rehabilitation, prevention and enforcement of laws against drugs".[169]

On December 3, 2016, Duterte said that during a phone conversation on the previous day with then-United States President-elect Donald Trump, Trump had invited him to Washington, and endorsed his Drug War policy, assuring him that it was being conducted "the right way".[170] Duterte described the conversation:

I could sense a good rapport, an animated President-elect Trump. And he was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem. [...] He understood the way we are handling it, and I said that there’s nothing wrong in protecting a country. It was a bit very encouraging in the sense that I supposed that what he really wanted to say was that we would be the last to interfere in the affairs of your own country.[171]

On December 16, Duterte and Singaporean President Tony Tan and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong agreed to work together in the fight against terrorism and illegal drugs. In a meeting during a state visit both parties discussed areas of cooperation between the two countries.[172]

The European Parliament expressed concern over the extrajudicial killings after a resolution on September 15, stating: "Drug trafficking and drug abuse in the Philippines remain a serious national and international concern, note MEPs. They understand that millions of people are hurt by the high level of drug addiction and its consequences in the country but are also concerned by the 'extraordinarily high numbers killed during police operations in the context of an intensified anti-crime and anti-drug campaign."[173] In response, at a press conference Duterte made an obscene hand gesture and called British and French representatives "hypocrites" because their ancestors had killed thousands of Arabs and others in the colonial era. He said: "When I read the EU condemnation I told them fuck you. You are doing it in atonement for your sins. They are now strict because they have guilty feelings. Who did I kill? Assuming that it's true? 1,700? How many have they killed?"[174][175]

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, in a visit to the Philippines in March 2017, warned that unless the Philippines addresses human rights issues, the EU would cancel tariff-free export of 6,000 products under the Generalized System of Preferences. Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella dismissed the concerns, saying that they revealed European ignorance.[158]

On December 24, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio, Edward Markey, and Christopher Coons expressed their concerns regarding the alleged extrajudicial killings and human rights violations in Duterte's war on drugs. Through a letter sent to the U.S. Department of State, they noted that instead of addressing the drug problem, investing in treatment programs or approaching the issue with an emphasis on health, Duterte has "pledged to kill another 20,000 to 30,000 people, many simply because they suffer from a drug use disorder." Rubio, Markey and Coons also questioned U.S. secretary of state John Kerry's pledge of $32-million funding for training and other law-enforcement assistance during his visit to Manila.[176][177] In May 2017, Senator Rubio, along with Senator Ben Cardin, filed a bipartisan bill in the U.S. Senate to restrict the exportation of weapons from the U.S. to the Philippines.[178]

The US ambassador in Manila announced on December 14, 2016, that the US foreign aid agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, would cancel funding to the Philippines due to "significant concerns around rule of law and civil liberties in the Philippines", explaining that aid recipients were required to demonstrate a "commitment to the rule of law, due process and respect for human rights". The MCC had disbursed $434 million to the Philippines from 2011 to 2015. The funding denial was expected to lead to the cancellation of a five-year infrastructure development project previously agreed to in December 2015.[158]

In February 2017, former Colombian President César Gaviria wrote an opinion piece on The New York Times to warn Duterte and the administration that the drug war is "unwinnable" and "disastrous", citing his own experiences as the President of Colombia. He also criticized the alleged extrajudicial killings and vigilantism, saying these are "the wrong ways to go". According to Gaviria, the war on drugs is essentially a war on people.[179] Gaviria suggested that improving public health and safety, strengthening anti-corruption measures, investing in sustainable development, decriminalizing drug consumption, and strengthening the regulation of therapeutic goods would enhance supply and demand reduction. In response to Gaviria, Duterte called him an "idiot", and said the issue of extrajudicial killings should be set aside, and that there were four to five million drug addicts in the country.[180][181]

In September 2017, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano delivered a speech at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly, during which he argued that extrajudicial killings were a myth, and that the Drug war, which according to Human Rights Watch has resulted in 13,000 deaths to date, was being waged to "protect (the) human rights of...the most vulnerable (citizens)".[182]

In October 2017, Secretary Cayetano was interviewed by the Qatari news outlet al-Jazeera. He asserted that all 3,900 people who were killed in the drug war fought against the police despite there having been no investigations conducted prior to the drug busts. He also rebuffed all claims that the drug war was against its people.[183]

38-nation statement against the drug war[edit]

On June 19, 2018, 38 United Nations member states released a collective statement through the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), calling on the Republic of the Philippines and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte to stop the killings in the country and probe abuses caused by the deadly drug war. The 38 nations included Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Macedonia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States.[184][185][186]

In popular media[edit]


On April 9, 2018, Netflix aired its first series from the Philippines entitled, AMO, made by Filipino director, Brillante Mendoza.[187]


"Hustisya" is a rap song about the drug war which was created by local artists inspired by the death of their friend immortalized in a photograph often compared to Michelangelo's Pieta.[188]

In December 2016, American singer James Taylor posted on social media that he had cancelled his concert in Manila, which was set for February 2017, citing the increasing number of deaths related to the drug war.[189][190]


On April 11, 2017, The New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography on their Philippine Drug war report. The story was published on December 7, 2016, and was titled "They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals".[191]

The La Pieta[192] or the "Philippines Pieta", named after the sculpture by Michelangelo, refers to the photograph of Jennilyn Olayres holding the lifeless corpse of Michael Siaron, who was shot dead by unidentified assailants in Pasay, Metro Manila, on July 23, 2016. The image was widely used in the national press.[193] The death of Michael Siaron remains unsolved for almost a year. Malacañang asserts that the man behind the killing were committed by drug syndicates themselves.[194] After Siaron was shot dead by unidentified assailants, a writing on a cardboard states, "Wag tularan si Siaron dahil pusher umano," was placed on his body.[194] One year and three months after he was killed, the police identified as the suspected assailant as Nesty Santiago through a ballistic exam on the recovered firearm.[195] Santiago was apparently a member of a syndicate involved in robberies, car thefts, hired killings and illegal drugs. The Pasay City Police declared his death as "case closed". However, Santiago was also killed by riding-in-tandem on December 29, 2016.[195] No further investigation were made.[195]

A photo of a body of an alleged drug dealer, killed during a police anti-drug operation, in Manila by Noel Celis has been selected as one of Time Magazine's top 100 photos of 2017.[196]

Mobile gaming[edit]

There are various mobile games featuring Duterte fighting criminals,[197] many of which have since been censored by Apple Inc. from their App Store following an appeal by various regional organizations.[198]

See also[edit]


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