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Marcos says drug war of 'predecessor' had 'abuses,' syndicates became 'stronger,' 'wealthier'

By NICK GARCIA Published May 05, 2023 5:23 pm

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said there were "abuses by certain elements in the government" of the Duterte administration, referring to its bloody war on drugs—and how syndicates have grown stronger and wealthier.

Marcos made the remarks in a program hosted by the United States' Center for Strategic and International Studies during his first official working visit to Washington on May 4.

In the question and answer portion, the president was asked what his administration is doing to address the culture of impunity and human rights abuses being "allowed" in the Philippines.

Marcos said most of the criticisms about the country's human rights situation stemmed from policies undertaken "to fight the drug war."

"In my view, what happened in the previous administration is that we focused very much on enforcement," he said, without naming former president Rodrigo Duterte.

"Because of that, it could be said that there were abuses by certain elements in the government. and that has caused some concern in many quarters."

Marcos said he cannot speak about the ideas of his "predecessor," still without naming Duterte, but the drug war "continues to be the source of much criminality in the Philippines."

"The syndicates have grown stronger, wealthier, and more influential, worryingly so," Marcos noted.

Reiterating his statements from previous media engagements, Marcos said that to address the country's drug problem, his government is looking into launching rehabilitation programs for drug users and better education about the dangers of drug use and trade.

"We have taken enforcement as far as we can. Now, it is time to look at actually going after dismantling these syndicates," the president said. 

"Further back to that process is also… the process of reeducation, of explaining especially to our young people what the damage — what the potential damage is to their lives should they be involved in this way, not only as users, not only as addicts, but also as dealers and operators of these syndicates."

He also repeated earlier statements about asking erring police officers to resign.

Upon assuming office in 2016, the Duterte administration launched its flagship bloody war on drugs called Oplan Tokhang, which saw the execution of thousands of suspected drug peddlers, users, and small-time criminals.

Based on the government's "Real Numbers" data, a total of 6,229 individuals were killed during anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016, to Jan. 31, 2022.

Rights groups, however, estimated that the number of deaths from the bloody anti-narcotics campaign reached as high as 27,000.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has ordered a probe into the war on drugs, but Malacañang said it has no jurisdiction over the Philippines. Duterte pulled Manila out of the ICC in 2019 after it launched a preliminary probe.

The ICC temporarily suspended its investigation in November 2021 after the national government requested the tribunal to defer its probe, saying that it was already on the case.

Last January, the ICC authorized the resumption of its investigation.

Marcos, however, last March said the Philippines will "disengage" from any contact with the ICC, which rejected a request to suspend its investigation.

He said there are "very serious questions" about the court's jurisdiction, and is considered as supposed interference and attack on the "sovereignty" of the country.