Philippines thinks U.S. journalists are clueless over country’s drug war — here’s why

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The Philippines said Thursday that foreign media are constantly screwing it up when it comes to reporting on the country’s drug war.

Speaking to reporters at Thursday’s World Economy Forum’s ASEAN meeting, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano said global news agencies are always focused on the president’s in-your-face comments and overlook his official statements, reported CNBC.

“They don’t show the statements where he says police cannot abuse,” he said, referring to the nation’s brash president, Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte grabbed headlines last year for saying that he doesn’t mind if people pick up a gun and shoot a local drug dealer.

“Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun … you have my support,” Duterte said in a televised speech last year. Shoot (the drug dealer) and I’ll give you a medal.”

Cayetano added that journalists and NGOs have gotten the figures wrong, noting Reuter’s estimates that 8,000 people have died due to the president’s drug war, and that Human Rights Watch tags the number at over 7,000. But Cayetano said those numbers are related to homicides, CNBC reported.

“1.2 million Filipinos, who were either pushers or users, have surrendered voluntarily and close to 3,000 have been killed in presumed legitimate police operations, those are the real numbers,” he said, as reported by CNBC.

Borderless has spoken to a number of Filipinos living inside and outside the country, who’ve said U.S. and Western media constantly get it wrong. For one thing, they say American journalists, who’ve never stepped foot in the Philippines, constantly focus on alleged human right abuse in the drug war. Filipinos say Western media’s first instinct is to go to Western-led NGOs for information, rather than speaking to people on the ground who live day-to-day in drug infested neighborhoods, in a country the UN says is Asia’s biggest meth user.

Filipinos living inside and outside of the country have also told Borderless that they are fed up with what they see as Western media taking the said of hardened drug dealers and portraying them as victims of Duterte’s drug war. They say they want media to focus more on victims of crimes related to the illegal drug trade.

Indeed, Western media and NGOs fret over Duterte’s drug war, which they say has killed scores of innocents or low-level drug users, and has failed to capture the big fish who control the trade.

Many Filipinos are sick and tired of the horrible crime caused by drugs in the Philippines. One women told Borderless that her relative’s neighbor’s eight-year-old child was raped by a drug crazed drug addict. Others have said few Americans in media will ever understand what it feels like to save all your money for three months to afford an iPhone, only to have it ripped out of your hand by a street thug the next day.

There are over 3 million drug addicts in the Philippines, according to the government. Filipinos say drugs are responsible for a crime rate so high that many people fear for their safety. Many Filipinos are so fed up that they say they love Duterte, because they believe he’s the only leader in years who cares enough to tackle the scourge of drugs and crime in the island nation.

Critics, however, have called him a human rights abuser, and blame him for unleashing a wave of violence after he told citizens in a speech that they are permitted to take the law into their own hands and kill criminals.

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