The Philippines’ Deadly War on Drugs

By | March 5, 2017

[March 5, 2017]  There’s a worldwide war on those who manufacture and distribute illicit drugs and that war is mostly hidden from Americans and the most affluent in Western democracies.  The war is deadly and how it’s played out is best illustrated in the case of the small country of the Philippines.

Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte is the new president of the Philippines.  He ran on a political platform of anti-crime, anti-corruption, anti-drugs, and anti-poverty; being overwhelmingly elected and popular in the country.  Yet, he has drawn the ire of the Humans Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United Nations, and nearly every Western government including the United States.

“This is not a war on drugs, but a war on the poor.” – Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director

Under Duterte’s leadership, the National Police and military have carried out the killing of drug users and pushers that now numbers in the thousands.  No one knows how many have been killed or if innocents were caught up in what is described as extrajudicial killings.1  But, it is interesting that Duterte is a self-described socialist and has chosen to break away from the U.S. and other Western nations as he moves to make his people his highest priority.

His idea is to take small steps to improve the nation’s economy and remove the constraints imposed by “imperialist” countries that have harmed his country.  He looks more like Cuban ex-President Fidel Castro in many ways but when it comes to business, he’s more like U.S. President Donald Trump.  He promised to give federal money to each region to be used for start-up money for small business.  His goal is to lift Filipinos out of their dire poverty.

His deadly war on drugs runs counter to Western countries where there is a stronger rule of law regarding on how to prosecute those who would violate the law.  Duterte seems to want to put fear into the hearts of those involved in the illicit drug culture.  That does seem to be working and he believes the price is acceptable.

One thing we can say about Duterte is that he is fearless in his actions.  He unabashedly mocked U.S. President Obama as a “son of a bitch;” tame for Duterte and for which he later apologized.2  He is known as a tough-talking, no-nonsense leader and for his crude remarks and insults.  A Filipino political science professor said that Duterte’s comments tend to play well at home where it can be seen as audacity; an important ingredient in the image as a “man of the people.”

Will Duterte’s leadership work?  That is ultimately the question.  So far, his methods have been successful in achieving what he wants.  Yet with so many aligned against him, overcoming such obstacles will test his skills.

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  1. It is estimated that more than 7,700 people have died since the anti-rug campaign started eight months ago; source:


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.