Philippines’ recently elected president Rodrigo Duterte won the elections largely based on the promise to ‘eliminate’ the drug problem from his country. This because Philippines with a population of 100 million has an estimated 1.3 Million drug users according to the government’s website and only increasing.
Around one-fifth of villages in the Philippines have drug-related cases, according to February 2015 data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Like the global trend, the most commonly used drug is a synthetic formulation called Methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu, followed by cannabis or marijuana. United Nations estimate show that Philippines tops the list of shabu-abuse.
In 2014, 89% of drug seizures involved shabu while 8.9% involved marijuana, according to PDEA. Cocaine, ephedrine, and ecstasy constituted the rest of the confiscations.
Duterte was previously the mayor of Davao, a metropolis of 1.5 million people on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, for 22 years before ascending the President’s office.
As mayor of Davao City, Duterte has always advocated a hard-line approach to criminals and claims to have drastically reduced Davao’s previously high rates of violent crime.
But along the years he has earned the nickname ‘The Punisher’ for allegedly being connected to group of vigilantes. Duterte himself confirmed the claims during a regular live weekly TV show broadcast locally in the Philippines last year before retracting it.
“Me? They are saying that I’m part of a death squad? True, that’s true,” he said in a mix of English and Visayan, a language spoken in southern Philippines, before threatening to kill thousands more criminals and dump them into Manila Bay if he was elected president of the Philippines.
Duterte seems to be fulfilling his promise as news reports say almost 300 people allegedly connected to drug syndicates have been killed by either police or vigilante groups supporting the President’s mission.
Philippine’s war on drugs can be compared to the ongoing one in Mexico. Mexico’s drug war since 2006, has seen a wave of killings as Mexican officials and drug cartels clashed in horrific violence that saw soldiers, police, drug cartel members, and civilians dead.
According to researchers cited on Vox, “The mortality rate for males ages 20–39 in Chihuahua in the period 2005–10 reached unprecedented levels: It was about 3.1 times higher than the mortality rate of US troops in Iraq between March 2003 and November 2006.” And Mexico is far from solving its drug problem.
Photographer Dondi Tawatao with Getty Images has chronicled the results of Duterte’s crackdown.
Two women cry in grief after armed assailants in a motorcycle shot their loved one in a main thoroughfare on July 23, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. The victim was an alleged drug peddler a claim disputed by his wife and maintained her husband is nothing more than a pedicab driver plying his trade when he was shot in front of her.
Police examine the body of an alleged drug dealer killed in a shooutout with swat teams during a drug raid on July 21, 2016 in Manila, Philippines.
An alleged drug dealer and victim of a summary execution lie dead on a street on July 17, 2016 in Manila, Philippines.
Police examine the body of an alleged drug dealer and victim of a summary execution on July 14, 2016 in Manila, Philippines.
An alleged drug dealer and victim of a summary execution with hands bound and his head wrapped in tape lie on a road on July 27, 2016 in Manila, Philippines.
The body of three alleged drug suspects lie inside a room on July 18, 2016 in Manila, Philippines.