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VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Duterte’s ‘never-ending’ fight against drugs and corruption in his own words

(First of two parts) At the height of the 2016 presidential race, then-mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City said his only reason for running against big names in Philippine politics was to rid the country of illegal drugs and corruption in three to six months.

He was consistent in this vision, reiterating such commitment in debates, campaign speeches, and, of course, at his inaugural address on June 30, 2016. Upon assuming the presidency, Duterte launched two wars – against illegal drugs and corruption in the bureaucracy – and then his self-imposed deadline lapsed.

Six years later, just days before Duterte steps down from office on June 30, let’s take a look at how his administration’s twin campaigns against drugs and corruption moved forward and backward, in his own words:

On illegal drugs



In Sept. 2021, the ICC launched a full-blown probe into the alleged drug-related crimes against humanity committed in the Philippines from Nov. 1, 2011 to March 16, 2019, when the country was still a state party to the Rome Statute. (See ICC authorizes full-blown probe into Duterte’s drug war)

However, the ICC suspended its probe on the country’s drug war in Nov. 2021, following the government’s six-page request to defer the investigation of its “nationals or others within its jurisdiction.” (See ICC prosecutor: Gov’t request to defer drug war probe must be backed with ‘substantial’ evidence)

Duterte, in his June 6 public address, urged the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to “maintain [the] momentum against the drug problem” even after he steps down.


Editor’s note: This part of the story was edited to correct the inclusive dates the ICC probe covers.



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GMA News Youtube Channel, REPLAY: PiliPinas Debates 2016 (commercial-free), Feb. 23, 2016

CNN Philippines Official Facebook, President Duterte on war on drugs: I saw the extent of drug problem in the country, Dec. 29, 2016

RTVMalacañang, The Inaugural of Rodrigo Roa Duterte, 16th President of the Philippines, June 30, 2016

RTVMalacañang, 2016 State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte 7/25/2016, July 25, 2016

RTVMalacañang, 67th Founding Anniversary of the First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR) (Speech) 11/24/2017, Nov. 24, 2017

RTVMalacañang, Mass Oath Taking of Presidential Appointees (Speech), Dec. 6, 2017

RTVMalacañang, Go Negosyo: “Pilipinas Angat Lahat” Launch (Speech), Aug. 14, 2018

RTVMalacañang, PDP – Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) Malabon City Campaign Rally (Speech) 4/2/2019, April 2, 2019

Real Numbers PH (PDEA), Year 5, July 28, 2021

Source: RTVMalacanang, Oath-Taking of the Global Coalition of Lingkod Bayan Advocacy Support Groups (Speech), June 25, 2021

International Criminal Court, Situation in the Philippines: ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I authorises the opening of an investigation, Sept. 15, 2021

RTVMalacanang, Part 1: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s Talk to the People, June 6, 2022

ABS-CBN News, Duterte urges police, military to continue war vs drugs, June 6, 2022, Duterte tells PNP to keep momentum vs illegal drugs beyond his admin, June 6, 2022, Duterte urges PNP to maintain momentum vs drugs, June 8, 2022


(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.)