By Patrick Brogan
The Philippines’ President has been a controversial figure since taking office in June of last year. He has praised Hitler and told a campaign rally he shot a man. He called President Obama a “son of a whore”. One of his major campaigning issues was a crackdown on drugs, which is no less controversial.
His war on drugs has cost the lives of many people. Police killed 28 people last night, this is added to the 32 deaths during the “one-time, big time” police raids on Monday. Police officials have said that they are not following a shot to kill policy and these people were murdered because they were fighting back.
President Rodrigo Duterte has said if more people were killed it would solve The Philippines’ perceived chronic drug problem. Not only did Duterte say the police responsible for the murders would not be punished but he added they should be promoted. This was criticised by human rights advocates. Chito Gascon, Chairman of the Philippine Human Rights Commission, said that this mentality would encourage people “to do their worst.” Duterte is critical of human rights campaigners too saying that police should also kill them if they got in the way.
Reports say the raids are popular in the country as the general population are tired of the drugs that have ruined many neighbourhoods, but according to Amnesty International and the UN “The Philippines has a low prevalence rate of drug users, compared to the global average”. No official records of these murders are being kept. Many fear these figures already go into the many thousands.
All of this is to the background of questions over Duterte’s own drug use. Reports in Asia suggest he is addicted to painkillers, the drug fentanyl especially. Duterte has admitted to taking the painkiller and some even suggest this is because he has cancer, a rumour that has resurfaced. Is this a metaphor for the phantom cancer of the narco-state he fights against?
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