Earlier this year Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte implemented a novel and extreme approach to combat his country’s drug problem: he told his police and citizens that they were allowed to kill suspected drug dealers and users. To date over 6,000 people have been killed by a combination of Philippine police and citizen vigilantes and some 840,000 people have turned themselves in, hoping to avoid death – some of them have been killed too.
You can imagine what kind of horror ensues from encouraging people to murder other people based on a suspicion. Maybe that guy down the street that you don’t like is suddenly acting suspicious, maybe he is a coke dealer. In the Philippines you can just walk down there and shoot him in the head or beat him to death with the ladder he never returned after he borrowed it last year and it’s probable that no one will bother looking into the matter.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure drug use will go down in the Philippines and from that angle the program will have been a success. But if you kill everyone you can technically bring drug use down to 0% in any country; where do you draw the line?
After months of watching this unfold and remaining relatively silent, the U.S. government has finally announced that they are suspending aid to the Philippines, a move that could end up costing the country hundreds of millions of dollars.
From the Drug Policy Alliance: “In recent weeks, the U.S. government has become more vocal in its opposition to the gross human rights violations associated with Duterte’s war on drugs. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said in a press briefing that ‘we’re very concerned—deeply concerned, I would say—about reports of extrajudicial killings of individuals suspected to have been involved in drug activity in the Philippines.’ After impassioned statements by Senators Patrick Leahy and Benjamin Cardin about the gravity of the situation in the Philippines, the State Department vowed to redirect $9 million in aid away from Philippine counternarcotics training. Last month, the U.S. halted planned sales of over 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines after Senator Cardin vowed to block the sale.”
With the coming change in U.S. Presidential administrations, the suspension of aid may not last long, however. President-Elect Trump has praised Duterte’s efforts, which means the money may soon again be flowing. That would be extremely unfortunate and set a precedent that could lead to much more bloodshed down the line.