SONA 2017 PROMISE TRACKER: Drugs and crime

Find out how Duterte fared in other sectors

The promise of ridding the country of crime and illegal drugs propelled Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency in 2016.

“During my inauguration… I said that the fight against criminality and illegal drugs and corruption will be relentless and sustained. I reiterate that commitment today,” he said in his first State of the Nation Address.

Yet his self-imposed deadline of “three to six months” has long passed; the president instead has expanded the timeframe to an indefinite time in the future.

“I have resolved that no matter how long it takes, the fight against illegal drugs will continue because that is the root cause of so much evil and so much suffering,” he said in his second SONA. “The fight will be unremitting as it will be unrelenting."

Two years in, how did Duterte fare in his promises to fight crime and illegal drugs, including the reimposition of the death penalty?

PROMISE: Continue fight against illegal drugs

"That is why, I have resolved that no matter how long it takes, the fight against illegal drugs will continue because that is the root cause of so much evil and so much suffering that weakens the social fabric and deters foreign investments from pouring in. The fight will be unremitting as it will be unrelenting." (SONA 2017)

But Duterte has flip-flopped on is campaign promise to end the country’s drugs problem in three to six months, revising the time frame to an indefinite time in the future.

PROMISE: Reimpose the death penalty

"I therefore ask Congress to act on all pending legislations to reimpose the death penalty on heinous crimes — especially on the trafficking of illegal drugs." (SONA 2017)

The House of Representatives approved in March 2017 the death penalty bill, but its passage hit a snag at the Senate.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III in May 2018 said the bill would have a higher chance of passage if focused only on high-level drug trafficking.

PROMISE: Address prosecution backlog especially in illegal drugs cases

“To address backlogs and low prosecutorial effectiveness and efficiency, the investigation and case management processes shall be streamlined including those for illegal drugs and heinous crimes.” (SONA 2016)

A Senate bill filed in 2016 seeking to create a dangerous drug court remains pending at the committee level.

There is comparatively more progress in the judiciary. The Supreme Court in August 2017 struck down a provision in the Dangerous Drugs Act which bars plea bargaining in drug-related cases. In 2018, it released a plea bargaining framework for drugs cases for the compliance of lower courts.

PROMISE: Strengthen protection for witness and whistleblowers

"To eradicate the prevalent cultures of fear and silence that have hounded our justice system, I asked Congress to enact the Whistleblower Protection Law while the present Witness Protection Program shall be strengthened." (SONA 2016)

At least five Senate bills seeking to provide protection for witnesses and whistleblowers remain at the committee level.


VERA Files Fact Check, In his own words: Duterte's drug war, so far, Sept. 4, 2017., House approves death penalty bill with 217 yes votes, March 7, 2017.

Rappler, How congressmen and women voted on the death penalty bill, March 7, 2017.

ABS-CBN, House approves death penalty bill on final reading, March 7, 2017., New Senate prez sees return of death penalty if…, May 25, 2018., Sotto: Death penalty easier to pass in Senate if focused only on high-level drug trafficking, May 25, 2018.

CNN Philippines, Senate President Sotto favors death penalty for drug trafficking cases, May 25, 2018.

Senate Bill 5.

Supreme Court, Circular No. 90-2018, May 4, 2018.

Senate Bills 1415, 1018, 949, 938, 1016.

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)


SONA 2018 Promise Tracker: Drugs and crime

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SONA 2016 PROMISE TRACKER: Drugs and crime

2016 SONA promises on drugs and crime

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