Drug Laws In The Philippines
4 min

Drug Laws In The Philippines

4 min

Drug laws are harsh throughout Asia. The Philippines was no different until Rodrigo Duterte became president on the promise of blood in the streets. Justice is being dispensed from gun barrels. Instead of methadone and compassion, addicts can expect a dose of hot lead.

You have probably heard a bit about the insane ongoing situation in the Philippines. Did you know that the new President Rodrigo Duterte is perhaps the first politician to keep a campaign promise?

Unfortunately President Duterte is taking a page right out of the "Hussein Dictatorship for Dummies Guide Book" and advocating extrajudicial killing as drug policy. Let’s take a closer look at the craziest story the mainstream media is doing its best to ignore.


According to Filipino law or to be precise the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002” the penalties for possession of tiny amounts of marijuana carry mandatory minimum sentences of 12 years and cultivation of some cannabis plants will get you a life sentence.

Sale and supply can even carry a death sentence; however this is commuted to a life sentence due to the abolition of the death penalty after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.

Of course President Duterte is calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty, but the fact is Filipino law does not endorse the death penalty or the use of deadly force by vigilantes.

Draconian drug laws across the continent make Asia a black spot on the map for the marijuana legalisation movement.

A 2015 report by HARM REDUCTION INTERNATIONAL on the death penalty for drugs lists seven nations in the category of “High application states”.

China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore comprise the five states from Asia. The Philippines will perhaps have its own category in future reports.

The other two bastions of liberty regularly executing people for drugs were the usual suspects of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Insufficient data was available from North Korea, safe to assume it’s no picnic there, so let’s move on.


Before winning the presidency and taking office in late June 2016, Duterte was the mayor of Davao City for 22 years. He established his fiefdom in blood and has always been an ambitious villain.

An ABC report by Adam Harvey 15/9/16 quotes an alleged former hitman that was a member of a death squad under Duterte during his tenure as mayor.

Mr. Matobato (the hitman) recently told a senate hearing in Manila “we killed people almost on a daily basis” and estimated approximately 1,000 victims were murdered on the order of Duterte.

So it would seem that ruthless tactics are nothing new to Duterte when it comes to securing his power. Drug users happen to be a convenient scapegoat that he has managed to convert into political capital.


The population of the Philippines is about 100 million and 80% of these people are Catholics. In the secular West the power and influence of most organised religions has been on the wane for some time.

The Philippines has not experienced such a rapid decline. However, mass attendance has been decreasing steadily from a high of 64% to the current estimate of 37%, according to Social Weather Stations data reported in The Philippine Star article by Helen Flores 4/10/13.

Duterte like most dictators is wary of the power of the Catholic church; after all it played a pivotal role in toppling the Marcos regime thirty years ago and more recently the impeachment and subsequent removal of President Joseph Estrada in 2001.

He has been a vocal opponent of the church and a big component of his “strong man” persona is based on cultivating the notion he is invincible and absolutely not scared to take on any institution or individual.

Base remarks about Pope Francis caused a stir, and grabbed him a lot of headlines, when he referred to the pope as a “son of a whore”.

Although he subsequently apologised, the publicity was priceless and the whole scandal was probably planned. More evidence of some devious political manoeuvring for personal gain or a misunderstanding? All in a day’s work for president Duterte, regardless.

For the most part this tough guy's approach has worked and the clergy are keeping quiet about the now estimated 3,600 people killed by police or vigilantes, according to data 11/10/16 from by Marnie O’Neill, for allegedly using and/or selling drugs.


Nobody knows exactly how many people are being killed exclusively for drugs because due process, trials and genuine justice are hard to come by these days in the Philippines.

It’s effectively open season on killing and it’s not difficult to imagine non drug related murders are being perpetrated amidst the purge of drug users.

Priests fear speaking on the record as violent reprisals for harbouring drug users are a real threat. Polls regularly confirm widespread popular support for the “War on Drugs” so the vast majority of the populace would appear to have bought in to this new terrible “final solution”.

Duterte said it himself at a recent press conference in his home city Davao “Hitler massacred three million Jews ... there’s three million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them”. Not only is the president underestimating the scope of the holocaust by 50% but he really is a psychopath and proud of it.


Gambling is another vice that has not escaped the attention of Duterte and he has effectively run the gaming industry out of town.

However he has been flip-flopping lately whether or not to completely shut down the hugely profitable online gambling industry.

He may be opposed to Filipinos picking up the habit but he’s unlikely to expand the purge and send the death squads bursting through the casino doors and kill the tourism sector in the crossfire.

Another piece of low hanging fruit on a more traditional “law and order” political campaign is cracking down on the proliferation of illegal firearms.

Firearm ownership statistics are completely inaccurate for the Philippines because of a “cottage industry” in the manufacture of counterfeit pistols, the 45 calibre Colt 1911 model is a local favourite and yours for a few hundred dollars, no questioned asked.

Access to firearms seems to be pretty unrestricted and Duterte is certainly aware of this. It is the key factor that facilitates the execution of his genocidal plan.


Next time you enjoy a nice puff of your favourite weed or hash, spare a thought for Eanna Ó Cochláin, 55 years old, originally from Cork, Ireland.

He was busted under highly suspicious circumstances when allegedly crumbs of cannabis were discovered inside a package of cigarettes he maintains was planted on him in the airport back in 2013.

Now out on bail with a target painted on his back. Escape is impossible as his passport has been described as “believed to be missing” by the Irish Times Marie O’Halleron 9/10/16.

He is a hunted man with a 12 year jail sentence hanging over him as Ralph Steadman would say “For no good reason at all!”

Charlie Flanagan, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs really needs to intervene and demand the immediate safe return of an Irish citizen. No EU citizen should be abandoned to face a real life Mad Max scenario like this.

It’s a lose-lose situation, either he is murdered by armed wandering gangs sooner or murdered later in the overcrowded medieval Philippine prison system.

The least we can do is not allow Charlie to pretend he never heard of Eanna and Charlie loves to get tweets send him a reminder here: @CharlieFlanagan

Miguel Antonio Ordoñez
Miguel Antonio Ordoñez
With an AB Mass Media and Communications degree, Miguel Ordoñez is a veteran writer of 13 years and counting and has been covering cannabis-related content since 2017. Continuous, meticulous research along with personal experience has helped him build a deep well of knowledge on the subject.
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