Foreign media outlets criticising Duterte’s “war on drugs” are clueless about Philippine politics

Articles critical of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte from foreign media outlets are coming out from left, right and centre lately. Unfortunately, they are mostly one-sided. One can’t help but think that they have an agenda — to damage the reputation of the new President and undermine his leadership. This is something that the members of the Liberal Party and their supporters would want.

Take the case of that TIME magazine article. The writer interviewed Senator Leila de Lima for comment about the government’s ongoing “drug war” without realising that the Senator is the last person to ask for a “fair” or “objective” assessment on Duterte’s policy. Aside from De Lima having an axe to grind against Duterte for her failure to pin him down back when she was still the Human Rights Chairperson on his alleged involvement in the Davao Death Squad when he was still Davao City Mayor, De Lima also is very defensive about her failure to eradicate the drug trade inside the country’s penitentiary – The New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City when she was the Secretary of the Department of Justice.

Sen. Leila de Lima: The last person expected to make a fair assessment on the 'war on drugs'
Sen. Leila de Lima: The last person expected to make a fair assessment on the ‘war on drugs’
De Lima already lost her credibility to the public. The only people who support her are rabid Liberal Party supporters. Bringing up her sordid love affair with her former driver at the DOJ would only be considered wrong if the driver wasn’t linked to the drug lords operating at Bilibid prison. The driver would have had access to a lot of contacts inside because of his connection with then Secretary De Lima. Besides, as mentioned before, former President BS Aquino set a precedent for naming and shaming. It’s not surprising that Duterte is continuing the tradition. What’s surprising is how some people expect Duterte to play fair since he has always been brutally honest. De Lima, for her part, has a lot of explaining to do including her failure to deal with drug manufacturing inside the compounds of the Bilibid prison and how the drug epidemic in the country became worse under her watch.

Perhaps he didn’t have enough time to understand the complexities of Philippine politics because it seems Rishi Iyengar, the TIME article writer, was aiming to paint a very gloomy forecast for the next six years under the Duterte leadership. The writer obviously failed to question De Lima’s role as head of DOJ. He could have asked her what measures she instigated to clamp down on the drug lords operating with impunity inside Bilibid. He would have understood why Duterte blames her for the problems he has to deal with today. Pictures of her mingling with known drug lords at a party have been making the rounds on social media. The TIME article would have been more balanced had the writer mentioned it.

What is quite disturbing about the TIME article aside from getting mostly the side of those who are against Duterte’s policy on drugs is the notion that the Philippines’ drug problem is not that bad. Iyengar seems to think that Duterte exaggerated to scare the public so he can convince them that there is a need for drastic measures. He even called his move “the oldest autocratic trick in the book”. Comments like that serves as evidence that the writer applies a strong bias against Duterte in his writing.

In proving that Philippines’ drug problem isn’t that bad, he compared crime rate figures from other places overseas against the crime rate in the Philippines:

But how bad is the Philippine drug problem? According to UNODC data, the highest ever recorded figure for the prevalence of amphetamine use (expressed as a percentage of the population aged 15 to 64) in the Philippines is 2.35. That is a high figure, but then the equivalent figure for the U.S. is 2.20, and the world’s real amphetamine crisis is among Australian males, where the prevalence is 2.90.

When it comes to illicit opioid use, the Philippine prevalence rate is just 0.05, compared to 5.41 in the U.S., and 3.30 in Australia. For cocaine, the Philippine figure is only 0.03. In the U.K., it is 2.40, in Australia 2.10 and in the U.S. also 2.10.

In other words, the statistics show what any visitor to the country may easily see: Filipinos are not degenerates, who need to be protected from themselves, but are mostly a nation of decent, sober, law-abiding and God-fearing people. The most revealing Philippine statistic is this: 37% of Filipinos attend church on a weekly basis. Less than 20% of Americans do.

Nonetheless, Duterte has succeeded in convincing large numbers of his people that drug use constitutes such an emergency that the very existence of the nation is threatened, and that only his rule can save the Philippines. It’s the oldest autocratic trick in the book.

What the heck is the writer trying to say? That the Philippines can still wait a while before addressing the problem? It’s like saying that since the drug problem is not as bad as Mexico, Duterte’s tough stance on drugs is not justified. I don’t think the writer considered the fact that some crimes involving drugs do not get reported anymore and so the data showing the crime rate could be a conservative estimate. Besides, who is he to tell Filipinos when to deal with the country’s drug problem? Most people prefer to nip the problem in the bud. That is why Duterte has the support of the majority of the public. Indeed, foreign media should be focusing on other countries that are not addressing their own drug problems.

Speaking of other countries, in the U.S. the role of one of its own government agencies – the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – in importing cocaine into the country was exposed in the 1990s. They were alleged to have allowed the drug syndicates to sell cocaine to ghettos in California targeting the African-American community the purpose of which was to raise money for the Nicaraguan Contras rebel army. There was outrage when the stories were made public. Imagine your own government being a party to the proliferation of drugs. No wonder some people consider the U.S. war on drugs a “failure”. One government agency was fighting the drug trade while another was fuelling it. That’s just crazy. The investigative journalist who made a series of exposés on this was demonised and met a suspicious death that was ruled as “suicide”. His story was made into a film called Killing the Messenger.

Stories like that make one think that some members of the international community have lost any moral high ground to tell the Philippines how to mind its business. What happened in California in the 1990’s gives Filipinos enough reason to take most foreigners’ criticism with a grain of salt.

Foreign media writers need to put the issues they write about in the proper context. Not all those who were killed died in the hands of the Philippine police. If we are to follow the DOJ’s Operational Guidelines on what can be classified as “extra-judicial killings”, death of suspected drug lords and dealers aren’t even considered as such:

Extra-Legal Killings (ELK) or Extra-Judicial Killings (EJK) – For purposes of operationalization and implementation of A.O. No. 35, the ELK/ElK will refer to killings wherein:

a. The victim was:
i. a member of, or affiliated with an organization, to include political, environmental, agrarian, labor, or similar causes;
or ii. an advocate of above-named causes;
or iii. a media practitioner
or iv. person(s) apparently mistaken or identified to be so.

Homicide where victims are allegedly drug dealers or drug lords cannot be considered “extrajudicial killings” under Philippine law.

For everyone’s information, here is an official tally of “deaths” in Duterte’s war on drugs as of today:


Yes, I know what you are thinking. It seems people have been reduced to numbers and one death is one too many. But this is the Philippines where most people were apathetic to victims of heinous crimes as a result of the drug epidemic in the last six years. It’s quite suspect the way some people are acting so “outraged” now especially since these same people routinely turned a blind eye to the BS Aquino government’s neglect.


Post Author: Ilda

In life, things are not always what they seem.

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97 Comments on "Foreign media outlets criticising Duterte’s “war on drugs” are clueless about Philippine politics"

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I love all these brilliant exchange from GRP writers and readers about Duterte’s “War on Drugs,” and how he’s being trivialized by local and foreign organizations with the way he’s handling it. Each time I read the articles and comments about the “War on Drugs,” the topic is always about the same major characters (Duterte, De Lima, the Aquinos) and the political bandwagons that they belong to that affect our country and people—so we think. Isn’t it about time for us to change the lenses on our cameras, shoot from different angles, and start highlighting the minor characters that may… Read more »

I hope UN imposes sanctions to PH. We dont need their help anyway. Screw them and all other countries.

yellowed out GRP reader
yellowed out GRP reader
Rishi Iyengar writes for Time magazine and graduated from Columbia University (according to his Twitter profile), but the way he argued his assertion that drugs are not really a serious problem in the Philippines is so amateurish that you would think a college intern wrote his article if you took away the Time logo and hid his “credentials”. Consider what Iyengar wrote: “When it comes to illicit opioid use, the Philippine prevalence rate is just 0.05, compared to 5.41 in the U.S., and 3.30 in Australia. For cocaine, the Philippine figure is only 0.03. In the U.K., it is 2.40,… Read more »
American Media serves the American interests , not the interests of the Filipinos. This was the reason Marcos, Sr. , was demonized by the American Press, when he was against the extension of the American bases in the Philippines. The U.S. used the Aquinos, to promote their interests in the Philippines. The same way, the Japanese Imperialists invaders, used Benigno Aquino, Sr., as a tool to pacify the occupied Filipinos, during the Japanese occupation. De Lima is a Drug Lord protector. The writer of the Times Magazine, using De Lima as a source of his article; is like using the… Read more »

It is quite obvious that there is a massive All out Propaganda war globally to attack Prez DU30. International Media is currently obsessed in demonizing DU30, one false move and we will end up like Syria.


Beware of those who criticize you when you deserve some praise for an achievement, for it is they who secretly desire to be worshiped.


Perhaps the depiction of Philippine drug problem closest to reality:

the drugs scourge is not some mole on the backside of society – it is a gangrene that needs to be removed for the rest of the organism to survive. there ain’t no such thing as a ‘recreational drug’ – whether it’s tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, shabu, synthetic drugs – they all degrade the immune system, bring the user to a zombie state, and the pusher to a vulture, and do nothing to enhance the beauty of just a natural high. if Philippines is ever to come home from the Olympics some day with a bagful of gold, it’ll be done… Read more »
Notice how the TIME article compares Philippines to other Southeast Asian countries on how similar our action was towards drugs. SEA countries are also very supportive of Duterte’s War on Drugs. The west fails to realize that we had to resort to these types of drastic actions because our situation is a far cry from theirs (the west). Western countries had the privilege of being powerhouses since the dawn of time. SEA countries,on the other hand, had been conquered and raped repeatedly in the past by these same western powerhouses. And our countries had been trash ever since. As much… Read more »
People were being killed before Duterte was elected; we just didn’t hear about it, for obvious reasons. Time magazine is a joke, and it cannot be taken seriously. America, and its mainstream, corporate hacks, will lecture other countries on various ‘human’ issues – but is friends with radical countries who have horrible civil liberties/ rights records. The U.S. likes to invade foreign, soverign countries, which it has no right to do. The military is for defense, not imperial nation-building and other political bullshit. A prime example of un-American, imperial action was the Philippine-American War, circa 1898. The U.S. placed Filipinos… Read more »
a yellow tard

the yellow dynasty are scared of the nations decent to anarchy against them through sereno’s speech. how could drugs enter the Philippines from china, taiwan, hongkong, etc? are they not checking it at their airports? there’s a strong possibility it’s been manufactured/cooked in the bilibid prison. it’s safe there untouchable.

to end all this political war, distribute hacienda luisita.

Jim DiGriz

I am convinced that Rishi Iyengar has NOT been here and has not talked to anyone mentioned in the article. The write-up is thrown together by a “she said this” and “he said that”, seasoned with some statistics.
No more, no less!

The past administration has been so over-zealously busy with a witch-hunt, persecuting its political enemies, that this drug problem has aggravated what then was merely a social tumor into a social cancer—a social cancer that has metastasized deeply into so many levels of society, that the only way to rid society of this is to severe some parts that may still relatively appear healthy. If the past administration hasn’t dropped the ball on this problem, perhaps extraction of this cancer may not require the level of precision surgery that the same opposition demands of Duterte—And they have the nerve to… Read more »
Thank goodness the people now know better. No amount of foreign bashers will sway the Filipino people. They try so hard to instill fear among the common people. As if to say that we should only now start fearing for lives since we could be the next target of the PNP or the vigilantes. Many yellow supporters would even condecendingly say, “kayong mga Dutertards, sana hindi mga mahal nyo sa buhay ang maging next casualty sa war on drugs.” The people know better. They know what it was to fear for the lives of their sons and daughters who would… Read more »
NO WAY, I CALL BULL-SHIT, BIG TIME BULL-SHIT !!! ON IL-DUH !!!!GET A CLUE, LADY WILL YA !!! The Foreign Media is NOT ‘CLUELESS’ about Filippine politics. Anyone who visits the country for a month, or even less, KNOWS that the country is corrupt from bottom to the top.These people KNOW That politicians RUN the local economies much like Feudal Lords in Medieval Europe.IT IS NOT DIFFICULT TO COMPREHEND AS IL-DUH HERE SUGGESTS, in fact, it is pretty easy to deduce. The recent MURDERS’ supported/condoned by, or possibly initiated by, the President of the country, is just a smoke screen… Read more »
Robert Haighton

Here is my personal view on why western media (incl Dutch media) are so against Duterte’s actions and way of ‘solving’ a problem.

Today all drug users are killed/murdered/assasinated by police or by whoever.

The question now is: who is next? What is the next problem that needs to be ‘solved’ in the same manner?
All gays, all lesbians, all atheists, all INC members?

Is that how a problem needs to be solved?


No people…no problem !


If we,Land Reform Aquino’s Hacienda Luisita. Half of the Aquino’s meddling in Philippine politics is solved. Aquino and the Cojuangcos are still meddling in Philippine politics, because they want to save their Hacienda Luista. And, continue the Power of the Feudal Oligarchy. They have also affiliation with the Chinese Triad Mafia Drug syndicate ! See their works when Aquino/Cojuangco was in Power ?

a yellow tard
i think hacienda luisita has something to keep secret to the Pilipinos. they knew that land belongs to the farmers but why they’re fighting for it over their dead body? is it really true that general antonio luna delivered the people’s money to isidra to hide it from the americans at that time? they said it’s just not one cart filled with golds and silvers? if it’s true it might be still there somewhere. how could they move it out there if it’s 4,5,6,etc number of carts? is it one reason why they can’t give it away to the farmers… Read more »
a yellow tard

the OFW’s should be privided housing for their family at low cost payment. money is not a problem. sequester all being acquired by corruptors in the past administrations and put it down to OFW’s who themselves worked hard for the country.