Rodrigo Duterte: The butcher of the drug war

The rise of the alt-right in the western world has brought about a number of controversial figures into the political spectrum. Nigel Farage who helped drive the UK into Brexit, Benjamin Netanyahu the prime minister of Israel who has been the barrier in the way of a two state solution for the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and, most recently, Donald Trump who has recently been inaugurated into the role of President of the United States despite record low approval ratings throughout the world. However, the newly elected 16th president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte seems to be the most tyrannical of the leaders of the modern world to date.

Duterte won the Philippine presidential election on May 9th 2016 with 38.5% of the vote, leading a campaign with promises to lower the growing crime rate in the Philippines by killing tens of thousands of criminals. His domestic policy laid out plans to combat the illegal drug trade by initiating the Philippine drug war, with rhetoric that incentivised members of the public to enact vigilante justice and kill individuals involved in the drug trade themselves. From June 30th when Duterte took office to December 6th, 5,882 people have been killed for suspicion of drug related offences. Of that number, 2,041 have been killed in police operations and raids, with the other 3,841 being murdered by unknown gunmen. One of the latest killings involved a 7 year old child being hit with a stray bullet after unknown gunmen where chasing a teenage boy accused of selling drugs.

This climate that Duterte has established in the region has led to global criticism, mostly from the UN; accusing Duterte of “incitement to violence and killing, a crime under international law”. As a response to these allegations, Duterte has threatened to withdraw from the UN and form a separate organisation with China and various African nations. Duterte also responded to these claims by saying in an August new conference: “You now, United Nations, if you can say one bad thing about me, I can give you 10 (about you). I tell you, you are an inutil (“useless”in Filipino street language). Because if you are really true to your mandate, you could have stopped all these wars and killing (in Syria and Iraq)”. When asked in the conference about possible repercussions to his withdrawal, he remarked: “What is… repercussions? I don’t give a shit to them”. Duterte’s disregard for his international image is made more apparent when looking at comments he made towards Barack Obama after he criticised Duterte’s, calling him a “son of a whore”.

This is not the first instance Duterte has made bold and radical statements, with the leader likening himself to Hitler, stating: “Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now there are 3 million drug addicts… I’d be happy to slaughter them”. This blatent disreagard for human life has solidified Duterte’s reputation as a tyrant in the political spectrum, however it is yet to be seen whether his actions could lead to further repercussions from the United Nations or whether his cold and calloused approach to crime could further drive the western world away from the war on drugs and towards a more liberal approach to the issue