Biased law enforcement? Duterte says shabu users mostly poor

MANILA, Philippines – On the day a survey showed more Filipinos believe his government is not enforcing the law equally, President Rodrigo Duterte said shabu users are mostly poor and thus it is only natural that his drug war has hit their communities the most.

"Why the poor?...Why are there so many deaths, not the rich? My God, I am telling you, the market of shabu is the poor community," said Duterte on Friday, October 20, during an event in Cagayan de Oro.

The rich Filipinos, he said, consume shabu in yachts and mostly get addicted to cocaine and heroin – types of hard drugs that are pricier than shabu.

Shabu is known as poor man's cocaine.

"The millionaires, they do shabu in yachts or they go to the airport to do cocaine or heroin. But heroin and cocaine are derivatives of the poppy. It's not as damaging to the brain," said Duterte.

The President said that because it is mostly the impoverished who purchase and peddle shabu – the most prevalent drug in the Philippines according to government data – a majority of drug suspects are the poor.

Because he made a promise to enforce the law on both the rich and the poor, his drug war has affected the lower classes too.

"I will go against all criminals without fear or favor and enforce [the law] equally. I never said I will enforce the law, just not on the poor. That's nonsense," said an agitated Duterte.

A Pulse Asia survey released on Friday showed a "significant" 7-percentage-point drop in approval for the government on "enforcing the law on all, whether on influential or ordinary people."

Another Pulse Asia survey, also conducted in September, showed that most Filipinos believed extrajudicial killings were happening in the Duterte administration's war on drugs. The campaign has been criticized for targeting mostly poor drug suspects.

However, the survey also showed 88% of Filipinos continue to support Duterte's war on drugs. –

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at