Drug war earns Duterte ‘Person of the Year’ title from U.S. nonprofit

Rappler.com
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project gives the title to an 'individual who has done the most in the world to advance organized criminal activity and corruption'

'PERSON OF THE YEAR'. President Rodrigo  Duterte's controversial drug war has made him the top choice of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project for 'Person of the Year.' Presidential Photo MANILA, Philippines – A US nonprofit organization has named President Rodrigo Duterte as “Person of the Year” for 2017 because of his war on drugs.

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which gives the title to an “individual who has done the most in the world to advance organized criminal activity and corruption,” made the announcement in a press statement on Thursday, December 28.

“Duterte has made a mockery of rule of law in his country,” said Drew Sullivan, editor for the OCCRP and one of the 9 judges who selected the Person of the Year for 2017 from nominations from journalists and the public. 

“While he is not your typical corrupt leader, he has empowered corruption in an innovative way.  His death squads have allegedly focused on criminals but, in fact, are less discriminating. He has empowered a bully-run system of survival of the fiercest. In the end, the Philippines is more corrupt, more cruel, and less democratic,” Sullivan added.

OCCRP said the Philippine leader edged out two African strongmen for the title – South African President Jacob Zuma and ousted Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, this year’s runners-up.

Zuma and Mugabe created division, hostility, and resentment by undermining the rule of law, according to Khadija Sharife, a member of the judging panel.

“The global panel of 9 corruption-fighting journalists, scholars and activists chose Duterte on the strength of his brutal war on drugs. Blunt, swaggering and profane, Duterte has vigorously implemented his pledge to use any tactic necessary to stop drug use,” OCCRP said.

It cited Duterte’s comparison of Hitler’s massacre of millions of Jews to his bid to “slaughter” 3 million drug addicts in the Philippines, a comment that drew flak. 

Duterte had often said that there are an estimated 3.7 million drug addicts in the Philippines, but the Dangerous Drugs Board has placed the number at 1.8 million.

The Duterte administration, criticized at home and abroad for the deaths in the drug war, has denied that the killings are state-sanctioned. (READ: Drug war in 2017: The year of deaths and denials)

Duterte had attacked and hurled expletives to international organizations and personalities that have criticized or expressed concern about his war on drugs. He cursed and threatened to slap United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard and warned to put on the immigration blacklist US lawmakers who have been pushing for an independent probe into alleged police abuses.

The government also declared it would reject aid from nations that have expressed concern over the killings.

It was not the first time for Duterte to be considered for the OCCRP title. Last year, he was runner-up to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Previous OCCRP Persons of the Year include Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014, and the Romanian Parliament in 2013. 

OCCRP describes itself as a not-for-profit consortium of regional investigative centers and for-profit independent media from Europe, Central Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

“It works to advance public understanding of how organized crime and corruption affect lives. OCCRP pushes for deeper coverage of global corruption via investigative stories with the support of the Open Society Foundations, USAID, European governments, and other major international donors. It has offices in Sarajevo, Bucharest, and Tbilisi,” it said in its statement. – Rappler.com