For decades, drug dealers and abusers have held The Philippines hostage. A culture of violence, degeneracy, public filth and social decay sprung up around a dark narcotics trade that spread like a virus. Countless politicians spoke about the problem, but only one took a militarised approach to a problem which effected the country as much if not more than terrorist insurgencies. That man, Rodrigo Duterte pioneered a tough zero-tolerance policy to drugs which give everyone in society a stake in helping to curtail the problem.
Between 2001 and 2010 and again from 2013 to 2016, Rodrigo Duterte as Mayor of Davao, did something in one of the poorest major cities in The Philippines, what the wealthy politicians in Manila could not do. He stopped the drug trade by eliminating the problem from its roots. When Duterte ran for President, even those who admired his achievements in Davao remained sceptical of his ability to do the same at a national level. Those sceptics were proved wrong as Duterte’s ongoing war on drugs continues to take effect. As a result, the streets throughout the country are safer and Duterte remains popular for achieving this reduction of violence and anti-social behaviour.
While the US Congress and intelligence agencies remain deeply hostile to President Duterte, Donald Trump has declared his admiration for Duterte’s war on drugs. A leaked transcript from the first conversation that Duterte and Trump conducted reveals the extent to which Trump found Duterte’s drug war inspirational. According to the transcript, Trump told Duterte,
“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that”.
Yesterday, Trump announced that he seeks to impose the death penalty on drugs dealers. He made an analogy that a murderer who kills a single individual can receive the death penalty, but drug dealers whose narcotics kill thousands are often in and out of jail quite rapidly, only to return to their dark ways.
Trump may well be following in Duterte’s footsteps, even at a time when many in Washington consider Duterte an enemy.