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Frontline Insight: Philippines President Duterte's War on Drugs

by Valeria Cardi and Joseph Barker

In the past seven months, over 7,600 people have been killed during Philippines President Duterte’s national crackdown on drugs. More than 2,500 of these deaths were in raids or stings that police said ended in shootouts.

Human rights groups have raised concerns about the killings, but Duterte says he cares little for drug dealers.

"You bleed for those sons of a bitch. How many? 3,000? I will kill more if only to get rid of drugs and this campaign," he said.

“It’s difficult to understand why President Duterte hates drugs so much, but he never stops talking about them,” Dr Tom Smith of the University of Portsmouth, an expert on Filipino politics, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation recently in an interview at London’s Frontline Club.

The drug wars made the news again this week when Duterte's police chief ordered the Philippine National Police to suspend their anti-drugs operations, after the killing of a South Korean businessman by rogue drug-squad police.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday that he would issue an executive order for military support in his fight against illicit drugs, which he said was a national security threat and he would "kill more" people if he had to.

In this video Smith provides some background on the drug war and tells us he believes that it is a continuation of a policy that Duterte first implemented on his native island of Mindanao, where it gained him great popularity, and which he has now exported to the capital.

“This is a cheap policy,” Smith explains. "Alleviating poverty is incredibly difficult. Corruption is endemic. He’s gone after the cheap and easy target and it’s having disastrous consequences."

Frontline Insight is an opinion series from the Thomson Reuters Foundation in which speakers from the Frontline Club in London share their views on a range of subjects. 

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