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It’s hard to imagine people more obsessed with prohibition and the Drug War than Harry Anslinger, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. But Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte may go down in history as the most brutal drug hater of all time. On January 4, he stated to the public that he’ll never apologize for the deaths of suspected drug users and dealers killed in police operations under his war on drugs. Rights groups are (rightfully) appalled. 

According to government data in the Philippines, more than 6,200 drug suspects — not even people convicted of drug crimes in court — have died in anti-narcotics sting operations between the time Duterte took office in June 2016 to November 2021. It’s ironic that he won the presidency on a platform of anti-corruption and “law and order.” The latter is giving us chilling acid-flashbacks to the Trump campaign of the same year.

“I will never, never apologize for the deaths,” Duterte said in a weekly national address, according to Reuters. “Kill me, jail me, I will never apologize.” Rights groups and critics say law enforcers have summarily executed drug suspects, but police say those killed were armed and had violently resisted arrest. (The police force in the United States says this, too…)

Duterte made this statement during his first national address of the year. He vowed to protect law enforcement officers who do their job and encouraged them to fight back when their lives are in danger. 

Thankfully, Duterte is prohibited from seeking re-election next year by the country’s constitution. In theory, he could be punished for his harsh drug punishments. But analysts say there’s a chance he may get away unscathed if a political ally gets elected to replace him. In that case, the newly elected president would likely protect Duterte from legal repercussions for upholding an inhumane drug war regime.

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) approved a formal investigation into Duterte’s war on drugs last September. The ICC suspended the probe in November following a request by the Philippines government, however, which cited its own investigations. Duterte immediately canceled the Philippines’ membership to the ICC in March 2018, a month after an ICC prosecutor said a preliminary examination over the drugs war was underway.