Today, the President of the Philippines delivered his “State of the Nation Address.” He vowed to show “no mercy” in his bloody war on drugs and crime, warning criminals that priests and human rights advocates cannot protect them from being killed.
Rodrigo Duterte was elected last month after promising to wipe out crime and corruption throughout the country, relying heavily on an anti-drug campaign centered around murdering people who use or sell drugs. Duterte has encouraged law enforcement, and even civilians, to kill people suspected of selling drugs and people who struggle with addiction. He said, “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”
“I strongly suspect that Filipinos will come to regret their election of a president who expresses such contempt for basic principles of due process and human rights,’ said Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “A government that condones extra-judicial killings of people who use or sell drugs will eventually turn its terror on others – it’s just a matter of time.”
During his campaign, Duterte estimated that 100,000 people would die as a result of this crackdown. According to AFP, Duterte has not been deterred by the human rights concerns opponents have raised about lack of due process. Additionally, as part of his initiative, Duterte promises to fully pardon anyone involved with the killing of people who use or sell drugs. Last week, police announced a plan to erect a large electronic billboard outside their headquarters in Manila that will keep track of all these drug-related killings.
There has been a notable silence from the international community. So far, the only country to weigh in has been China – and they have been supportive of Duterte’s drug policies.
Historically, the Philippines has had a conservative approach to drug policy and maintained harsh drug laws, such as 20 years of imprisonment for possession of 5 grams or more of any type of drug. But Duterte’s approach is unprecedented; he has escalated an already-tough drug policy to the extreme, eliciting terror and violence throughout the country.
“In 1985 I was sentenced to 15 years-to-life for a first time, nonviolent drug offense, and it blows me away to hear about the draconian drug policy that the President of the Philippines is championing,” said Anthony Papa, author of This Side of Freedomand manager of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance. “We have some terrible drug policies in the U.S., like mandatory minimum sentences, but I have never seen anything like the killings that are happening in the Philippines right now.”