Philippines’ Marcos takes swipe at Duterte over record drug bust

In a subtle dig at his predecessor, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said ‘nobody died’ in massive narcotics seizure.
BenarNews staff
Philippines’ Marcos takes swipe at Duterte over record drug bust President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. inspects a massive drug haul April 16, 2024 in the town of Alitagtag, in Batangas province, just south of the Philippine capital. The drug haul of more than 2 tons of crystal meth has an estimated street value of some 13.3 billion pesos ($242.29 million).
HO/Presidential Communications Office

UPDATED at 12:27 p.m. ET on 2024-04-16

In an apparent swipe at his predecessor, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. praised police on Tuesday for making the country’s largest ever seizure of crystal methamphetamine without anybody being killed, saying it was the right approach to the drug war.

Police found more than 2 tons of methamphetamine, with an estimated street value of 13.3 billion pesos (U.S. $242.29 million), on Monday after stopping a van and arresting the driver at a checkpoint in the town of Alitagtag, some 80 km (49.7 miles) south of Manila.

Marcos said that police were tracing the source of the haul, but it appeared to have been imported.

“This is the biggest shipment of shabu that we’ve seized,” Marcos told reporters, referring to methamphetamine by its local name. “But not one person died. Nobody died, there was no shootout, no one was hurt. As long as we handle our (police) operations delicately.”

In a subtle dig at his immediate predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, Marcos added that “this should be the approach in the drug war.” 

Duterte, who was known for his tough-talking manner while in office, openly encouraged police officers to shoot and kill drug suspects.

His war on drugs drew international condemnation from Western governments, the United Nations and civil society groups for potentially enabling human rights violations.

The Philippine government has said that about 8,000 suspected dealers and addicts were killed during the counter-narcotics campaign by the Duterte administration (2016 to 2022), but rights advocates have said the figure could be more than twice as much.

Marcos has said that the drug war will continue, even as the approach will be different and focus more on rehabilitating suspects. Still, officer-involved killings have continued under his watch.

Data from the Dahas Project of the University of the Philippines that tracks down drug-related killings show that 611 suspects have been slain since Marcos assumed the presidency in 2022 until April 7 of this year.

Carlos Conde, a senior Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on Tuesday that the operation proved that the war on drugs could be carried out without any violence.

“Killing drug users will never solve the problem,” said Conde, adding that Marcos should end the drug war as a state policy.

“Marcos needs to institutionalize harm reduction as a strategy in dealing with illegal drugs,” he said. “Harm reduction puts a premium on the rights of people who use drugs. Drug use is a public health issue.”

Duterte, 79, is facing two complaints at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for mass murder and crimes against humanity over his anti-drugs crusade.

One was filed by a former police officer, a self-styled assassin who accused him of ordering the deaths of opponents and criminals when Duterte served as mayor of southern Davao city. The second was filed by relatives of people killed during Duterte’s anti-drug campaign while he served as president.

An investigation by the justice department in 2021 said that in many cases, police officers involved in the killings did not follow protocol and could be prosecuted. Four police officers have been convicted of murder linked to drug-war killings. 

Despite signs of growing tensions with Duterte, Marcos has said on multiple occasions he would not allow his predecessor to be handed over to the ICC.

“We don’t recognize the warrant that they will send to us,” Marcos said during a forum hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines on Monday.

“We are well within international law when we take the position of not recognizing the jurisdiction of ICC in the Philippines.”

Marcos succeeded Duterte in mid-2022, joining forces with his daughter, Sara Duterte, who is the current vice-president.

However, cracks are starting to show in the political alliance. Duterte has accused Marcos himself of being a drug user – a claim that has been flatly denied. Marcos, meanwhile, has claimed that Duterte was a long time user of the opioid fentanyl. 

Most recently, the pair have clashed over an alleged “secret agreement” that Duterte struck with Beijing to keep the “status quo” in the South China Sea.

Jeoffrey Maitem and Jojo Riñoza contributed to this report


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