How did President Duterte begin his speech

Murders in the Philippines"Mood like a witch hunt"

The Philippines have a serious drug problem, said Icking from the Philippines office in Cologne. The background is the country's extreme poverty. During his political career so far, Duterte has shown that the fight against drugs is what drives him. The current "war" began the day after Duterte's election as the new President of the Philippines on May 9 this year.

The 71-year-old's announcement alone that he would act relentlessly against drug-related crime was enough to cause so many murders to happen. Because, according to Icking: "This kind of extrajudicial executions have always existed, only up to now you had to justify yourself." That means: not anymore.

Duterte was not "elected despite his human rights violations, but because of it". There is great social approval for this policy. Protests come only from the Catholic Church and the human rights movement, but not from major political opposition in the country. The judiciary was also holding back after Duterte's announcement that it would declare martial law should it get in his way.

According to the Asia expert, there is currently a "mood like a witch-hunt" in the country. And Duterte has already announced that he will also take action against other social evils.

The interview in full length:

Tobias Crossbows: The Philippines has had a new president for a good two months: his name is Rodrigo Duterte. And what we've heard from this island nation in the western Pacific since he took office sounds scary. Duterte had announced a war, a war on drugs. And one more thing: he doesn't care about human rights. Since then, we hear almost every week of shootings in the Philippines of suspected drug dealers, either killed by the police or by unknown killers. The corpses are often left lying on the street with signs around their necks. More than 2,000 deaths were counted in the past two months. However, these are only the official figures; there could be a lot more.

We can talk about it now with Johannes Icking, a connoisseur of the Philippines. He has dealt intensively with society and politics in the country. He works for the Asia House Foundation. This is a think tank in Cologne. Good afternoon, Mr. Icking.

Johannes Icking: Good day.

Crossbows: Mr Icking, let's talk about this man first: Rodrigo Duterte. What exactly drives him?

Icking: What definitely drives him is the fight against drugs, the fight against crime. That was his election promise, that's what he was elected for. For this he is also known as the mayor of the city of Davao. He has already practiced this war on drugs at home for 22 years.

We know he has other agendas too: the peace negotiations. He says he wants to move the economy forward; but the plans are vague.

Crossbows: If we now look at these dead in this drug fight, especially these numbers, can we say that the President himself is actually responsible for these dead, for these shootings?

Icking: Definitely! The number, these killings of alleged, one must say yes, drug dealers and drug users started on May 9th. That was the day after the election when it became clear that Duterte would become president.

That was because that was exactly what he announced during the election campaign, which lasted several months. There are said to be up to 100,000 deaths. That famous saying that he will make the fish in Manila Bay fat with the dead. And it didn't even need his direct order, so to speak, but the announcement that he would take rigorous and bloody action against the drugs was enough to get going.

Crossbows: But if, as you say, it started immediately, it almost sounds as if the police, possibly other authorities and also many killers in the country were just waiting for him to actually get into this post.

Icking: Yes, it definitely is. These kinds of extrajudicial executions, say human rights activists, have always been at a low level in the Philippines. Under Aquino's last presidency, you had to justify yourself for this, and now suddenly someone becomes president who says, I want this, do it, I'll have your back, if someone accuses you, I'll get you out of prison.

"There's a huge drug problem"

Crossbows: How serious is the drug problem in the Philippines?

Icking: That is serious. There is absolutely no talking about it. It is of course due to the massive poverty that prevails in this country. We're talking about 30 percent of Filipinos who describe themselves as poor.

We now have cases among these dead: For example, a very prominent case was now paddy-cap drivers. This is kind of the equivalent of the rickshaws in the Philippines. Those are tough jobs, of course, and people use chemical drugs to get through the day. There is a huge drug problem.

Crossbows: Does that also cause social problems?

Icking: Naturally! With these drugs and the rampant poverty, of course, there are also high crime rates.

The Philippine President Duterte has announced that if the judiciary does not support him in the fight against drug trafficking, he may declare martial law. (AFP / Ted Aljibe)

Crossbows: What do the Philippines themselves say about Duterte and his course in this policy?

Icking: It must be said that this man was not elected despite his human rights violations, but because of it. He announced it as it happens now, bypassing the judicial system and killing people. That was his main campaign message and with it he won a clear majority. After the election, it has the highest approval ratings that any president has had in recent history in the Philippines. So there is great social support for this policy.

"There is no major political opposition"

Crossbows: That also means that there is no major protest or something against it to be seen?

Icking: There are also protests. Filipino society, like many societies, is of course plural. There are many voices. The Catholic Church, which is quite powerful in this country, is clearly against this fight against drugs, or at least how it is carried out. The human rights movement is also clearly opposed. But there is, so to speak, no major political opposition that would stand against him at the moment.

Crossbows: What does the judiciary in the Philippines say? What do judges and public prosecutors, lawyers, say when, so to speak, the judiciary, bypassing the judicial system, is pronounced and, if one can say so, enforced?

Icking: Interestingly, they are holding back at the moment. The only time they opposed was when Duterte accused several judges of being involved in the drug trade themselves. The head of the Supreme Court pointed out to him that it couldn't be because two of the judges were already dead and the rest of them had nothing to do with drug cases. But otherwise they are holding back at the moment, also because Duterte has announced that if the judicial system gets in his way, he may declare martial law.

Crossbows: How does it actually work when we now say that the police shoot drug dealers, killer squads shoot drug dealers? Are they rewarded for this in any way, or what motivates such people in such shootings?

Icking: Of course there are also rumors that head premiums are paid there, but at the moment there is a mood like a witch hunt in this country. In concrete terms, it works like this: At the lowest political level, the so-called barangays, lists of suspected drug dealers and drug users are collected. They are then given to the police. The police make house calls to these people, and then these people die. The police then always say that the people resisted with violence and then they had to kill them in self-defense for reasons of self-protection. Of course, given the absolute number of these murders, that cannot be at all.

Crossbows: How do you see the future there? Is this just the beginning, will it go on for years?

Icking: Of course, nobody can say that at the moment. Duterte has already announced that there are of course other social evils: corruption, gambling. It may well be that when the fight against drugs is to be over, however, it will then look for the next target.

"In Southeast Asia and Asia all countries have a mess"

Crossbows: What about Filipino foreign policy? Is there any resentment among neighboring states about this new president and his approach?

Icking: We have to say, of course, that in Southeast Asia and Asia we are of course dealing with countries that are all messed up, you have to put it that way. We hear criticism, quiet criticism, from the United States. We hear massive criticism from the United Nations. There have already been some upheavals. Otherwise we don't hear much.

Statements by our interlocutors reflect their own views. Deutschlandfunk does not adopt statements made by its interlocutors in interviews and discussions as its own.