A prominent human rights organization in the Philippines said on Monday that President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war is leading the country into a path of “tyrannical megalomania and unparalleled self-destruction.”
Since his election in 2016, Duterte has built a reputation as a strongman leader who has instigated a brutal crackdown on drugs traffickers that has allegedly led to thousands of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations.
“Malacañang places the blame on human rights organizations for the Duterte administration’s failure to curb the illegal drug problem and accuses them of smearing the country’s reputation,” the Karapatan human rights group said in a statement.
“In case [they] haven’t noticed, Duterte did that all by himself, in a path of tyrannical megalomania and unparalleled self-destruction,” they continued.
Last week, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who himself once was a human rights lawyer, suggested that the reason human rights groups may be so vehemently opposed to Duterte’s crackdown is that they are receiving funding from drug organizations in a bid to destabilize the government.
“The attacks against the President’s war on drugs have been vicious and nonstop,” he said. “We therefore do not discount the possibility that some human rights groups have become unwitting tools of drug lords to hinder the strides made by the administration.”
“To continue to do and thrive in the drug business, these drug lords can easily use their drug money to fund destabilization efforts against the government,” he posited.
Karapatan dismissed the claims as the government “cooking up a scenario that will justify a massive Tokhang-style killing of activists” or an “attempt to evade accountability from domestic and international human rights instruments.”
Duterte has repeatedly expressed his contempt for human rights organizations and accused them of hindering his anti-drug war, where he has urged his forces to “spare no one” in their war against drug barons. Last September, he cut the country’s human rights budget to just $20 a month and has suggested that investigators should be fed to crocodiles.
This month, Duterte announced that his intention to pull the Philippines out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as they continue to examine evidence of human rights abuses. Duterte accused the body of orchestrating “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks on my person.”
Opponents are now increasingly describing Duterte as a tyrannical leader comparable to the military dictator Ferdinand Marcos, amid other fears that he also clamping down on freedom of the press. However, a recent survey found that satisfaction with Duterte’s administration is the highest of any Filipino government since the 1980s, with an approval rating of over 70 points, making him one of the most domestically popular leaders in the world.