Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte: A Villain or Hero?

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Published: Thu 2nd February 2017

Author: Tamimi

Read Time: 4 minutes

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte: A Villain or Hero?

Duterte’s Perspective on Drug Use

Famously known for his tirades against Western establishments and his bloody war on drugs, the 16th President of Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has just reaffirmed his position on the drugs crusade. He has vowed to continue down a deadly path, now involving the military and extended to the end of his term in 2022.


Whilst it is evidently clear that the President intends to eliminate the drug problem, which has effected an estimated 3 million people in the South-East Asian country. The question on everyone’s mind is whether or not his actions actually resonate with his intentions.


To date, there has been more than 7000 extrajudicial deaths since Mr Duterte took office last year, many of which, according to rights groups, amount to crimes against humanity. It is alleged that police officers would routinely plant evidence, hire target killers, and plunder the homes of the deceased victims.


The President’s philosophy on drugs users tends to be narrow and oversimplified. He frequently calls them adik (addict), a term with great negative connotation in Philippines. He holds deep conviction that users of illicit drugs, especially methamphetamines, are beyond redemption.  He has previously claimed that the use of sabu (methamphetamines) ‘shrinks the brain’ and makes it consumers ‘no longer viable as human beings in this planet’.


On the Contrary

Contrary to Mr Duterte beliefs, modern science and psychology offer solutions such as cognitive-behavioural therapy and pharmacotherapy – both of which have shown promise as viable forms of rehabilitation. Alternative, cheaper methods could include models that employ the demand harm- reduction frameworks; an example of which could potentially be prevention measures, via education at school or university level.


Another factor contributing to the drug epidemic in Philippines, one which cannot be solved by extrajudicial killings, is the socio-economic background that the drug addicts emerge from. Many sabu users come from the most impoverished areas of the country and usually represent the underclass male youths of the Philippines. According to a research paper, Gideon Lasco (2014), shabu users consume the drugs as a method of coping with the low income opportunities – alongside the harsh living conditions that they find themselves in. Methamphetamines allows the youth to stay awake at night and it gives them energy and alleviates hunger. It also serves as a portal of temporarily escape from their difficult lives.


A Word of Advice 

Should President Rodrigo Duterte aim for a complete resonance, in the outcome of his war on drugs, and his intention to rid the Philippines of the drug problem, the solution should take into account the complexity and sensitivity of the issue. A focus on alternative methods of cheap drug use rehabilitation centres and treatment, is a potential path to pursue. Industrialisation of the economy and job creation is another. Mr Duterte could also revise his use of prosecution and re-direct the effort to rid the country of the corrupt elements in the police force – especially with the political sphere being heavily involved in the drug trade.

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