An estimated 60,000 Philippine citizens battling drug addiction have turned themselves in to police or rehabilitation centers since President Rodrigo Duterte, who won election on an anti-drug campaign, took office in May.
In addition to the tens of thousands who have surrendered to authorities suspected of nursing addictions to drugs – many suffering from methamphetamine, or “shabu shabu,” addiction – at least one man personally named by Duterte as a major drug trafficker has turned himself in to police.
The Daily Mail cites Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar as giving the media the 60,000 statistic. Andanar noted that those turning themselves in appear fearful of becoming the targets of police under Duterte’s tenure. As a candidate, Duterte vowed to eradicate drugs from the Philippines’ urban centers, citing his success as mayor of southern Davao City in the past 22 years as proof of what he could achieve. Following his election victory, Duterte established a bounty out of his leftover campaign cash to pay vigilante killers if they targeted known drug traffickers. He has also vowed impunity for police who kill drug pushers on site.
Local media reports, the Daily Mail notes, add that another 43,000 drug trafficking suspects “have been ‘neutralized'” in the past two months. Most of these have been killed in “shoot-out” scenarios where police argue that killing the suspects is the only way to ensure their own safety.
In a speech earlier this July, Duterte named three known major drug traffickers by name and urged them to cease their business or, he said, “You will die.” He asked those selling drugs in urban communities to “commit suicide” if they could not stop peddling drugs. This week, one of the men Duterte mentioned by name, a Chinese national named Peter Lim, surrendered to police.
Andanar, the press secretary, confirmed the news on Monday. “The alleged drug lord Peter Lim has come out in the open. He cleared his name and he has expressed his intention to the President that he will do just that,” he said. “Now, the burden is on Peter Lim and we do encourage the rest of the suspects to do the same.” While Duterte had vowed to “kill” Lim if he surfaced in the Philippines, Lim is being kept in high-security detention. It is not clear whether Lim returned to the Philippines from China or had never left.
“I could clear up everything because my family is really in deep problem now in Cebu,” Lim allegedly told Duterte following his surrender, and volunteered to help in Duterte’s war on drugs.
Duterte has alleged that Chinese nationals are largely both the perpetrators and victims of drug crime in the Philippines. He noted that “most” of the unclaimed bodies of dead drug victims are Chinese, and he is seeking cooperation with Beijing to combat the drug scourge.
The avalanche of police surrenders follows months of Duterte’s threatening to kill anyone who promotes drug use or traffics in the drug trade in the Philippines. His rhetoric has aroused the condemnation of human rights groups, whom he has promised voters he will ignore. “I am not afraid of human rights,” he said in a speech Sunday, asserting that he “will retire with the reputation of Idi Amin,” the Ugandan dictator.
“I will not allow my country to go to the dogs,” he added.