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Why Duterte's drug war alone could already qualify him as the Philippines' worst president

The drug war is arguably the most controversial and widely debated issue during the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte. While he is known for his tough-talking and populist rhetoric, his bloody campaign against drugs has earned him the reputation of being one of the worst presidents in the country's history, if not THE worst.

Duterte's drug war has been widely criticized by human rights organizations, international bodies, and concerned citizens for its alleged disregard for human rights and the rule of law. According to reports, the drug war has resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and other human rights violations. This caused a lot of fear and anger among Filipinos, who then began to question the efficacy of his methods and even the legitimacy of the presidency. Many started to ask: "How can somebody that diabolical be suddenly sitting as the country's supreme leader?"

Overturning Good Governance

The evil that proliferated throughout Philippine society at that time was quite obvious. Duterte's pronouncements, for one, of absolving police who end up killing drug suspects, spurred a mentality that espoused a blatant disregard, not only for the rule of law but for human life. Law enforcement, city and court officials, legislators, Duterte's sycophants, and fanatics conveniently presumed that those who were killed in the drug war deserved it, or were collateral casualties, unavoidable, to achieve a greater goal of cleansing the country of the drug menace. It was practically a shoot-to-kill order to the police and vigilante groups against drug suspects, and it certainly fueled all the violence and abuse of power that ensued.

Millions of Filipinos lost their conscience, supporting the drug war and cheering for Duterte, while the human rights situation deteriorated. Journalists and human rights defenders were harassed, threatened, and even killed for speaking out against the drug war and poor police procedures. And even then, the campaign, ultimately, turned out to be a dud, failing to bring to justice the biggest drug lords.

What was achieved was not the promulgation of peace and security, but of fear. It set up an authoritarian regime where those who glorified Duterte no matter what, were rewarded, and those who opposed him were vilified and punished. Philippine democracy was summarily dismantled.

Sowing Fear, Making the Corrupt Incumbents Invincible

It was all just a brutal and deadly hypocrisy, where if you are a friend of Duterte, you could do drugs and get away with it. On the other hand, if you opposed Duterte, you could be killed, and evidence can be planted on you to make it seem like you were a drug dealer. Many of Duterte's supporters who were drug users felt no fear because they had connections that were allied to him. And many of those who were not even drug users lived in fear for opposing his policies. The drug war was nothing but a smokescreen to sow fear throughout the islands and discourage opposition.

Most of those who claim that the drug war is Duterte's "crowning achievement" know deep inside that he, as president, dismally failed to address many of the country's pressing problems. He wasn't able to relieve indigence or solve unemployment. Access to education and healthcare wasn't made easier. And after all the tough-talk of the one dubbed "the punisher", none of the truly "big-time" plunderers were punished.

Everything worsened. The economy, peace and order, the justice system, and citizens' rights––all went plunging to record lows. The country's deeper in debt. More people are poorer. Jobs became scantier. Education succumbed to the domination of propaganda. And healthcare was embedded with what could be one of the most brazen corruption scams of the decade.

Almost all government malfeasance came under an invisible protective cordon that permitted crimes to be done again and again with impunity. In short, Duterte promoted crimes, the whole gamut of them...the most vile. And the rest of the so-called officials of the Philippine democratic government allowed him to, many even proud and loud accomplices.

Love For Powerful Evil

Filipinos now have a government that is ruthless, immune from accountability, unrepentant, and arrogant towards the citizens it is supposed to serve and protect. Officials can lie, steal, and kill and betray the nation's interests unpunished, and boldly so, as they know there will be no ill consequences to their person. But citizens, too. A lot among the electorate are proud to vote for and be allied with corrupt people in the leadership.

Many Filipinos would now rather side with who will be in power. It doesn’t matter if they are corrupt. Who will win the elections, even as elections can be easily rigged in a nation that’s become as corrupt and dysfunctional as this. Therefore, the need for an external force... an adjudication from the outside that is not corrupted, not brainwashed by fake news, and not beholden to the corrupt incumbent.


The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a court of last resort that investigates and prosecutes individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. The ICC can exercise jurisdiction over crimes committed within its member states or by nationals of its member states. And the Philippines is a state party to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC.

In 2018, the ICC announced that it had begun a preliminary examination into the situation in the Philippines, focusing on allegations of extrajudicial killings in connection with the country's "war on drugs." If the ICC finds that there is sufficient evidence of crimes against humanity, it may issue arrest warrants for those responsible and seek their extradition to The Hague to stand trial.

However, the ICC does not have a police force, and it relies on the cooperation of member states to enforce its decisions. In the case of former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been accused of crimes against humanity in connection with his government's anti-drug campaign, the ICC can only prosecute him if it can establish that he is personally responsible for the alleged crimes, or if he ordered or contributed to the crimes through his official capacity. If the ICC decides to pursue a case against Duterte, it will likely face significant challenges in bringing him to justice, as the Philippine government has rejected the ICC's jurisdiction and has taken steps to withdraw from the Rome Statute. Moreover, Duterte enjoys strong political support in the Philippines, which may make enforcing any ICC arrest warrants difficult. Duterte, it seems, has succeeded in corrupting the entire Philippine government so that even an "outside cure" has become impossible. Imagine a cancer, where all the chances of treatment have been negated.

Demonic Standard

A good Philippine president upholds its Constitution, strives towards implementing the law equally, respects the human rights of its citizens, and works toward addressing the root causes of the country's problems. Duterte did nothing of this sort but instead did the opposite.

What Duterte did was put himself above the law, violate the Constitution multiple times, and push for his authoritarian agenda, rather than preserve Philippine democracy. He was crass, indecent, and tyrannical in his promotion of falsehood and wrong values. He divided the nation, sowing fear and hatred. He sometimes confused everybody with his vagueness and lack of principle, even his own minions did not know how to defend him at times. He protected the guilty and the deceivers and persecuted the innocent tellers of truths. He betrayed the people with false promises and sold Philippine interests out to China. He's mired the country so deep in debt, it would take generations to be free of it. He's taken away the independence of the branches of government, practically taking the nation back to despotic rule. He punished the victims and rewarded the perpetrators of crimes. And in the face of his drug war that's cost the lives of thousands, he is, ironically, a self-proclaimed user of controlled substances.

He could very well be found guilty as an instigator of crimes against humanity, like a Hitler, and the lot. Those who voted for and keep on their support for Duterte should not be proud. They should be ashamed, for it is tantamount to idolizing a demon.


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