Duterte hopeful war on drugs 'nearly over'

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is hopeful that his war on drugs is "nearly over," citing the reduced supply of illegal drugs in the country since he waged the campaign.

"I hope patapos na ang fight against drugs (I hope the fight against drugs is nearly over). There's now a lesser supply," he said in a speech before leaving for Peru on Thursday, November 17,  to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Summit.

Though he did not cite figures proving his claim, he said one indication of reduced drugs supply is the observation that criminals are turning to other crimes.

"Problem is, bumalik sila doon sa kidnapping pati hold-up (they went back to kidnapping and hold-up). And the other common crimes not related to drugs," he said.

In September, Duterte gave his administration's campaign against illegal drugs a score of 5 out of 10. He also extended his deadline to "suppress" the drug problem by 6 months, making the new deadline March 30, 2017.

The President's upbeat assessment of the drug situation in the country seems to contradict his earlier statement that he would declare a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus if lawlessness, particularly the drug trade, persists in the country.

'Not ours'

The results of the latest Social Weather Stations survey show there is high public support for the campaign among Filipinos – a net satisfaction rating of 78% as of September.

Even with such public support, human rights groups, the Church, academe, the United Nations, European Union, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and US officials have expressed concern over the spate in extrajudicial killings being linked to the "drug war." Sweden has also voiced its concern. 

In his speech on Thursday, Duterte, again denied that extrajudicial killings are being carried out by government forces. (READ: Impunity: Let Them Sleep)

"The 300 to 3,000 people who died in the fight against drugs, especially at the beginning of the first two months, hindi atin ‘yun (those are not ours)," said Duterte, claiming they were the work of corrupt police "cleaning and purging" their ranks of snitches.

Duterte said he takes responsibility only for deaths that occur in legitimate police operations.

"‘Yung engkwentro talaga na sinasabing engkwentro, ‘yun ang atin (Those who died in encounters, those are ours). But they kept on hammering on the 3,000 as if it was mine....They think that I enjoy killing my own countrymen," he said.

As of the second week of November, around 1,800 drug personalities have been killed in police operations while there have been around 3,000 victims of vigilante-style killings. – 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.