VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Are addicts ‘eternally’ hooked on drugs?

President Rodrigo Duterte is now likening addicts to slaves, describing them as eternally dependent on drugs.


During the oath-taking of newly promoted police officials in Malacañang on Jan. 19, Duterte said:

“Actually, ang kawawa dito is—they (drug addicts) are slaves. Mabuti pa ang slave, kasi kung mabili mo sa African market, magamit mo pa sa trabaho mo. Ito, they are slaves eternally to a chemical, sponsored by a criminal, his pockets full of money at the expense of the Filipino.”

(Source: Philippine National Police Oath Taking, Malacanang Palace, Jan. 19, 2017, watch from 08:11 to 08:41)


Duterte’s message about substance abuse is not factual. Drug addiction is treatable.

In May 2015, the World Drug Report of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said there are available “multidisciplinary interventions” to prevent and treat drug use disorder.

The report also stated drug dependence is a complex, multifaceted and relapsing chronic condition, which requires continuing care and interventions.

The US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) said the best chance for drug dependents to be cured is by combining addiction treatment medicines with behavioral therapy.

In December 2015 the UNODC and World Health Organization (WHO) convened a scientific consultation on prevention of drug use and treatment of drug use disorder. It gathered 20 of the world’s leading researchers and 200 policy makers from 85 countries and discussed the latest findings in drug prevention and drug dependence treatment.

Treatment interventions presented during the consultation varied from psychological, pharmacological, to clinical approaches designed for specific conditions.


Duterte’s statement seems to be at odds with his anti-drug campaign.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has told the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights the Philippine government will be spending more on drug rehabilitation.

NEDA deputy director-general Rosemarie Edillon gave a detailed report of the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign to the UN body last September 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland, the press release said.

It includes community-based rehabilitation and aftercare reintegration and transformation support for recovering drug dependents.

Article VIII, Section 75 of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 also mandates the national government through its appropriate agencies to “provide priority funding for the increase of subsidy to existing government drug rehabilitation centers.” Depending on the availability of budget, it also orders the establishment of at least one drug rehabilitation center in each province. (Read: Can we turn military camps into drug rehabilitation centers?)

Also in September, Duterte vowed to kill three million drug addicts and likened himself to Germany’s Adolf Hitler: “Hitler massacred three million Jews…there’s three million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”

Duterte later apologized and explained his statement was directed to his critics who compared him to Hitler.

On October 27, in his arrival speech from Japan, Duterte rejected the idea that drug addiction is a medical condition. (Read: Drug addiction not a medical problem?)

Duterte said:

Eh sabi nila, (drug addiction is) a medical problem, susmaryosep. Pati ba kami na nakatapos ng high school, bolahin mo pa ganun. Whoever taught you to buy sickness there? Binibili mo ‘yang shabu.”

(Source: Arrival from Japan, Davao International Airport, Davao City, Oct, 27, 2016, watch from 26:07 to 26:24)

As for Duterte’s remark on slavery, slave trade in Africa has been abolished since the 19th century. Today, any form of slavery is illegal.


UNODC: World Drug Report 2015 (page 32)

National Institute on Drug Abuse: Understanding drug use and addiction

UNODC: Book of Abstracts – Scientific Consultation on the Prevention of Drug Use and Treatment of Drug Use Disorder

NEDA: PH to spend more on drug rehabilitation, gov’t tells UN body

RA 9165: Article VIII, Section 75 of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002

The Guardian: Rodrigo Duterte vows to kill 3 million drug addicts and likens himself to Hitler

ABS-CBN: Duterte cites Hitler: I’d be happy to slaughter 3 million