Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is being asked by critics to come clean about his alleged fentanyl abuse, as his country grapples with an ongoing war on drugs that has reportedly killed over 5,000 people since the president took office earlier this year.
The President’s comments
The president revealed on Monday of last week that he had previously been prescribed fentanyl, the powerful and highly addictive opioid that claimed the life of the singer Prince earlier this year following an overdose, after a series of motorcycle accidents injured his spine.
According to Duterte, his decision to continue “abusing the drug” led to his doctor to counsel him to cease from using it going forward.
Fentanyl is notorious for its potency. The substance is reportedly 40 to 50 times more potent than 100 percent pure heroin, and anywhere from 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
The president defended his remarks by later saying that his initial comments were merely a joke. He also maintained that his use of the substance did not qualify as an addiction.
I’m not an addict… Only when it is prescribed. Addiction is only with regularity, my friend.
Duterte also accused the media of running with a story that they should have ignored. The president’s spokesperson, Martin Andanar, says that the president is in good health.
Opponents pounce on Duterte
Duterte’s critics within the government were quick to seize on the news of the president’s drug use, calling for him to be more transparent about his abuse and even raising questions about his fitness for office.
It is not just the illness itself that we should be worried about, but also the impact or side effects that the medications he is taking may have, especially on his lucidity and ability to make decisions with a clear mind.
Another of Duterte’s critics, Senator Antonio Trillanes, stated that the president’s drug habit indicated that he “qualified as a drug addict.”
Even Duterte’s allies within and without the government have asked he and his administration to be more up-front regarding his drug use. Congressman Carlos Zarate called upon the president’s physician to explain
The Philippines’ drug war
The president has been a longtime opponent of drug use, making the issue one of the centerpieces of his presidential campaign earlier this year.
Since he took power, an estimated 5,882 people have been killed across the country, according to police records; of that number, 2,041 were drug suspects that were killed during police proceedings.
The killings have been extensively documented by local and international media. Critics charge that Duterte has either been encouraging or complicit in the killings’ orchestrations. In June, following his election win, Duterte
In June, following his election win, Duterte urged Philipinos to murder any addicts that they knew,
If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.
Duterte has not hidden his appetite for violence. The president claimed in a recent interview that he personally killed criminal suspects while he was the mayor of the city of Davao from 2013-2016.
In Davao I used to do it personally. Just to show to the guys [police officers] that if I can do it, why can’t you… I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill.