During a recent speech, Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, tried to make light of a gruelling meeting scheduled at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
"It’s a killing activity," Duterte reportedly said. "But at my age, I am not really bothered because I take marijuana to stay awake." According to the New York Times report, this comment was met with "bursts of laughter". He later retracted the statement, saying he was joking.
Now, being in the second year of a Trump presidency, we may be desensitized to politicians making bizarre claims (who uses marijuana to stay awake??). But Duterte’s comments are particularly disgusting given the hypocrisy of his remarks. It’s been over two years since Duterte won the presidency of the Philippines on a platform that included launching a vicious, bloody war on drugs.
During his campaign, he had this to say to suspected drug dealers:
Forget the laws on human rights. If I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because I’d kill you. I’ll dump all of you into Manila Bay, and fatten all the fish there.
And he has held to that promise. "Official" government statistics say 4500 people have been killed as a result of the drug war, while human rights groups say the number is closer to 12000 - and counting.
Opposition politicians and human rights advocates have been quick to condemn Duterte.
"If you are making a joke on an issue that has cost the lives of thousands of people in your drug war, then what does that say? You also treat peoples’ lives as a joke," said opposition member of the House of Representatives Gary Alejano.
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