War on Drugs

Rodrigo Duterte's Murderous War on Drugs Follows American Logic

The Philippine president is not alone in thinking drug offenders should be killed.



Rodrigo Duterte, the newly installed president of the Philippines, is often compared to Donald Trump. But as I explain in my latest Forbes column, Duterte's murderous campaign against drug offenders echoes the rhetoric of American prohibitionists such as former drug czar Bill Bennett and former Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates:

Thirty-three countries have laws that authorize the death penalty for drug offenses. The Philippines is not one of them. But since Rodrigo Duterte was elected president last May after promising to "fatten all the fish" in Manila Bay with the bodies of criminals, police and vigilantes have killed hundreds of drug dealers and users.

Testifying before the Philippine Senate on Tuesday, National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa said cops had killed 756 drug suspects since July 1, the day after Duterte was sworn in as president, while 1,160 people had been killed "outside police operations." The death toll rose by 137 between Monday and Tuesday, so by now it is presumably in the thousands.

Duterte's methods may be bloodier than those typically employed by American prohibitionists, but his logic is similar, casting peaceful transactions—the exchange of money for psychoactive substances—as acts of aggression that pose an existential threat to the nation. This is war, after all, so there is no room for legal niceties.

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