Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, has slammed the European Union for criticizing his bloody war against drugs and suggesting that drug rehabilitation is the right solution.
There have been 8,000 drug-related killings since Duterte became the country’s president in June 2016. The police have assumed responsibility for more than 2,500 of these deaths, which isn’t surprising since Duterte encourages police officers to shoot if they feel their safety is threatened. He has stated in many interviews that he stands behind the authorities, noting that he will “accept the consequences” for officers who have killed drug offenders who resisted arrest.
Police insist that the remaining 5,500 or so killings were made drug gangs who wanted to silence their members and/or sought revenge for unpaid goods. However, many local and foreign human rights groups believe that the police were behind these mysterious deaths.
The rising extrajudicial death toll has prompted the EU, which is one of the country’s largest trading partners and provides it with tariff benefits, to step in. The Union proposed a health-based approach to the Philippines’ drug problem and promised to provide financial aid for drug rehabilitation projects. The bloc stated its support for the fight against drugs but asked the Philippine government to focus on drug barons and trafficking networks instead of targeting small-scale drug users. It also showed concern for the safety of senator Leila de Lima, who is one of the president’s most outspoken critics and has received serious backlash because of it.
Duterte did not agree with the proposal from the European Union and was angered by it. During an event with the Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry, he called EU lawmakers “sons of bitches” and stated that he did not need the Union and the drug rehabilitation programs it recommended.
Duterte believes that people can enter rehab clinics, be given their choice of drugs (e.g. marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine), and walk out. This, in turn, means that Filipinos can “go there and consume every chemical until kingdom come, until they are crazy”, which makes them inclined to commit crimes like rape and homicide.
The Philippine president points out that the European Union should not complain about the bloodshed that was brought about by his war on drugs, considering that millions of Europeans have died in the last two world wars. He urges the EU to trace their history and remember that they “also washed [their] hands with blood”.
His allies echo his sentiments. Philippine senate president Aquilino Pimentel accused the EU of trying to micromanage the country’s internal affairs. Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo that the bloc should “mind their own business” and not “interfere with the judicial processes” of the country.
During his campaign, Duterte’s main message was that he would wage war on drugs if he would be made president and that he would make the country drug-free within the first six months of his presidency. Half a year after he ascended into office, he asked for an “extension” of another six months, revealing that he initially did not recognize just how big the country’s drug problem was and that he needed more time to solve it.