Yet another foreign statesman has felt the sharp side of President Duterte’s tongue.
Today (Wednesday, February 8) “The Punisher” called former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria an “idiot” for “lecturing” him about his war on drugs.
Duterte hit out at Gaviria — under whose watch notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar was killed — in a speech given at the 115th founding anniversary of the Bureau of Customs.
Gaviria, who was president of the Latin American nation from 1990 to 1994, had given Mr Duterte advice on fighting the drug trade in an opinion piece published in today’s New York Times. He said that “the drug menace cannot be solved by the heavy-handed approach of killing drug addicts”.
“Tens of thousands of people were slaughtered in our anti-drug crusade. Many of our brightest politicians, judges, police officers and journalists were assassinated. At the same time, the vast funds earned by drug cartels were spent to corrupt our executive, judicial and legislative branches of government. The war on drugs is essentially a war on people,” he said.
Referring to the article, Mr Duterte said: “To tell you frankly, they say that the Colombian leader has been lecturing about me. That idiot.”
Mr Duterte then sought to explain that the situations in Colombia and the Philippines were different because of the types of illegal drugs prevalent in the countries.
“You know, they have cocaine there. Cocaine and heroin, not really; cocaine and marijuana are kind of okay. You can still communicate.”
However, in the case of the Philippines, he continued, most addicts were hooked on shabu or methamphetamine, which he said included chemicals used in the production of batteries.
“The fact alone that it is mixed using battery water will give you an indication of what’s going to happen inside your brain,” Mr Duterte said.
Although he was at pains to point out the differences between the drug problems in the two countries, soon after winning power Mr Duterte sent police chief Ronald dela Rosa to Colombia to “see how they won the war on drugs”, a fact not mentioned in the speech.
Mr Duterte also reiterated an earlier vow to take “full legal responsibility” for any “lapses” by public servants in the performance of their duties while following his orders.
“These extrajudicial killings and issues, just put it aside. For those really done in the performance of duty, not the other cases, I take full legal responsibility.
“And if there’s somebody who should go to prison, it’s not the policemen; it is not the military; it is not the Customs; the PDEA — Me. I will answer for anything that I ordered and I am obeyed, following the law,” he said.
The president’s tirade against Gaviria, who is now part of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, was starkly at odds with a statement issued by his official spokesman, Ernesto Abella.
Mr Abella, in a statement issued before Mr Duterte’s speech, said: “We respect the opinion of former president Cesar Gaviria that Colombia’s experience of war against drugs cannot be won by the armed forces and law enforcement agencies alone.
“The Philippine president rightly understood the same insight when he began to address not just crime and illegal drugs but also broadened government efforts into a public health issue.”
Mr Abella also said that the “second phase” of the campaign against drugs “focuses on the treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependents.”
“We appreciate the ex-Colombian president’s concerns and we encourage our people to see our situation in the light of comprehensive nation-building,” he concluded.