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Rodrigo Duterte: New Drug War Poster Child

Rodrigo Duterte

If you would like to see where “winning” the drug war would take America, consider what Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte, who is undoubtedly the new poster boy of very American drug-war proponent, is doing in that country.

Winning the presidential election on a platform of “crushing crime,” Duterte has gone on a rampage of state violence in an attempt to win the war on drugs, once and for all. Since he was elected last Thursday, he has already killed thirty suspected drug dealers. The operative word is “suspected.” None of the people who were killed were accorded trials or due process of law.

In fact, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Duterte’s model for winning the war on drugs is the U.S. national-security’s state model for winning its much-vaunted “war on terrorism.” In that “war,”’ there are no trials or due process of law for suspected terrorists either. They are assassinated on site, along with anyone who might be near them.

According to an article on, Duterte conceded that his methods are “unorthodox and verge on the illegal.” But the 71-year-old former prosecutor insisted (with a straight face) that he supported the rule of law. The article pointed out that when he was mayor for the city of Davao for 22 years, death squads killed at least 1,400 people, consisting of drug-pushers, addicts, petty criminals, and street children.

Will Duterte’s methods “win” the war on drugs? Not a chance. People have used drugs for centuries and will continue to do so. Addicts especially will continue to do whatever is necessary to satisfy their addiction. And as long as money can be made selling drugs, there will inevitably be people doing the selling.

But the question every American should ask himself is this: Even if this type of police-state activity were to succeed in significantly reducing or ending drug usage, would it really be worth it? Who wants to live in a society in which the state wields the omnipotent power to kill whomever it wants, to bash down people’s doors at home to search for drugs without even the semblance of a warrant, or to arbitrarily stop and search people on the streets? Do Americans really want to abandon whatever vestiges of liberty and privacy they have left, in the name of “safety” and “security” in the drug war?

One thing is for certain: Duterte’s type of governmental system and the society of freedom is not the type that our American ancestors wished to bring into existence here in America. In fact, the protections in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eight Amendment were enacted with tyrannical public officials like Duterte in mind.

There is a better solution: End the war on drugs by legalizing all drugs. That would immediately put the drug gangs and drug cartels out of business. It would also eliminate the need for addicts to rob and steal to get the money to pay for the exorbitant black-market prices of drugs.

Would Duterte support ending the war on drugs? Not a chance. He knows that that would mean no more public-“service” jobs for his drug-enforcement goons.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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