Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte steps out of Malacañang to attend ceremony for ‘destruction’ of drugs

Pia Ranada
Duterte steps out of Malacañang to attend ceremony for ‘destruction’ of drugs

EVENT OUTSIDE PALACE. President Duterte takes a look at what is supposed to be shabu about to be burned.

RTVM screenshot

One of President Duterte's few public events outside of Malacañang amid the pandemic is aired live

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stepped out of Malacañang for his first aired ceremonial event outside in months, attending the supposed destruction of billions worth of illegal drugs in Trece Martirez, Cavite on Thursday, December 3.

Wearing a white mask but no face shield, Duterte arrived in Integrated Waste Management Inc around 5:15 pm. Officials like Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Wilkins Villanueva, Dangerous Drugs Board chief Catalino Cuy, and Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque waited for him in seats placed apart.

The open-air but roofed venue contained a small seated audience.

Duterte kept his speech short, around 18 minutes. He spoke mostly about his banner campaign against illegal drugs. Much of his speech contained repetitions of his favorite lines, barely mentioning the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kaunting pagkamali lang, barilin mo na because if you are not – or maunahan ka or maalanganin ka. Ma-letse na, I will assume full legal responsiblity,” he said, addressing policemen who come across armed drug suspects.

(If the suspect makes even just a small mistake, shoot them because if you are shot first. If things go bad, I will assume full legal responsibility.)

It was his age-old assurance to cops that he would protect them should they be sued for wrongfully killing a person during an anti-drug operation.

“To this day, I say to the human rights [groups], I don’t give a shit with you. My order is still the same,” said Duterte.

P7.5 billion worth of drugs set to be burned

After his speech, he and other officials walked to stacks of what was supposed to be P7.5 billion worth of illegal drugs about to be destroyed through thermal decomposition.

The livestreaming of the event did not show the actual destruction of the drugs.

According to a PDEA press release, the collection of seized drugs included 1.1 million grams of shabu – or methamphetamine hydrochloride – worth P7.3 billion.

There was also 3,505 milliliters of liquid meth worth P7.1 million and 248,000 grams of marijuana worth P30 million, among others.

For a while, Villanueva could be seen showing Duterte the teabag wrapper some of the drugs were supposedly packed in.

Duterte, Villanueva, and Senator Bong Go threw packs of shabu into the burner. In thermal decomposition or thermolysis, the drugs are to be exposed to a temperature of 1,000 degrees centigrade which is supposed to “totally break down” the substances.

Most of the drugs set to be burned were seized during an operation in Cabanatuan City last October 30 where two Chinese nationals were arrested, said the PDEA.

This event in Cavite was also notable because it was among the few times that Duterte’s speech was aired live.

The last time was a month ago, on November 2, when his speech at a meeting about Super Typhoon Rolly was aired live. Before that, the last time was on July 27, Duterte’s State of the Nation Address.

It was also the first event since the SONA that was covered by Malacañang reporters, who first had to present a negative swab test result and be subjected to a rapid antibody test before being allowed in the venue. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.