President Duterte has said that slaves are better than drug addicts, because at least if you buy an African you can put him to useful work.
His ill-advised comparison has been slammed by opposition politicians, who say it is just the latest in a long line of offensive statements.
The president was speaking at the Malacañang during one of two meetings called with the nation’s governors, who last week he had threatened to “poison” if they were involved with illegal drugs. (See our report here)
He said: “What is wretched about this is they are actually, they are slaves.
“Even slaves are better, because if you buy them in the African market, you can make them useful. Here, they are slaves eternally to a chemical sponsored by a criminal, his pockets full of money at the expense of the Filipino.”
Speaking in the Senate, Risa Hontiveros expressed her horror at the remark, saying they demonstrated racism and belittled the value of human life. “This is the height of absurdity. The president tries to make light of slavery, which is universally frowned upon and condemned. His remarks were callous, insensitive and uninformed,” she said.
“Abuse is abuse. Whether drug addiction or slavery, the lives of the people that are trapped in these circumstances are incomparable. It is wrong to trivialise people’s suffering and judge which situation is ‘better’ than the other.”
Hontiveros also reminded the Senate of the recent scandal when the president had compared himself favourably to Hitler, saying he would happily slaughter three million addicts. “First it was the Holocaust, now it’s slavery. When will this madness stop? I remind the president that drug addiction is a public health concern. Ostracising drug addicts only makes it extra difficult for the government to fully rehabilitate and reintegrate them back into society.
“What they need are appropriate health care interventions to manage and stop their addiction. The government should also recognise their right to decent work as a response to the roots of their dependence.
“The president should stop making it seem like drug dependents are better off sent to gas chambers or slave ships,”
It has been reported that the closed-door meetings with the governors were calmer than similar events held with the nation’s mayors last week. On those occasions, the president said that anyone involved in drugs among those assembled should: “Resign, sons of bitches, or die!” (See our report here).
Speaking to The Rappler, police chief Ronald dela Rosa, who was present at the meetings, said: “He was calmer and was more of appealing to the governors, not threatening that he will have them gunned down by the chief of police…. There was none of that.”
The embattled police leader, who is facing calls to resign over the murder of a South Korean businessman just yards from his office (see our reports here and here), also said there was much less swearing. “Just a bit,” he said. “Not like with the mayors, where there was a lot of cursing involved.”