A bloody drug war in the Philippines has drawn significant concerns both within the country and internationally. A new survey shows that most Filipinos believe the war on drugs unfairly targets an exclusively poor demographic.The survey, which asked 1,200 Filipinos questions about the country’s war on drugs, was conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS), a nonprofit social research institution.
President Rodrigo Duterte instituted a crackdown on drugs just over a year ago. The result has been the death of about 3,800 people, though many believe the body count is much higher. Other sources say the death count is over 7,000 people. Activists and human rights groups in the country think that the police are acting corruptly, and waging an unnecessary war based on a political agenda.
60 percent of respondents to the SWS survey believe that the war on drugs exclusively targets poor drug dealers.
The result of this controversy has been an international backlash, and in September during the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, 38 countries—mostly Western nations—supported a call for Duterte to put a stop to the deadly drug war. Duterte believes these countries are hypocritical for taking a stance against the drug war in the Philippines, while similar policies have been enacted in Western nations like the United States, who was among the signatories.
The situation indeed strikes a resemblance to the war on drugs in the United States, which was originally waged by President Richard Nixon.
John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s Domestic Policy Advisor later admitted, “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.”
More recently, President Trump has promised to crack down on “the menace of rising crime,” to appeal to his base with key phrases that have long been used as a dog whistle for instituting policies that disproportionately target the country’s poor and minority groups.
“It is ironic that many states joining the statement are the very same states that are the sources of arms, bombs, machines, and mercenaries that maim, kill and massacre thousands of people all over the world, not only during their colonial past but even up to today,” said Maria Teresa Almojuela, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations.
But cases of teenagers being killed by police have alarmed many. And while police claim that these deaths have been the result of the teenagers refusing to cooperate with arrest, almost 50 percent of respondents to the SWS survey were unsure whether this was truly the case or not.
While local polling has demonstrated a broad base of support for President Duterte’s tough on crime policies, particularly within the President’s largely working-class base, the drug war continues to be a major source of disagreement among voters, according to Reuters. Many are simply looking for greater transparency. President Duterte claims to have a file containing the names of 6,000 major drug dealers within the country, which 74 percent of those surveyed by SWS believes should be released to the public. Investigations by Human Rights Watch have found that police have been tampering with evidence to support their efforts.