Is there any evidence to suggest that the war on drugs in the Philippines by president Duterte has proven to be successful, with regards to the reduction of drug-related crimes?

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    For any institution propagandas, this is too early to tell. After the question after 3 years. BTW, "Is there any evidence that USA war on drugs is successful?" may shed some light.
    – mootmoot
    Jun 26, 2017 at 17:14
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    Legalization is the only effective solution in the long run - see how countries tried to fight alcohol for examples. Jun 27, 2017 at 9:28
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    @JonathanReez I totally agree or at-least decriminalization, I was curious because he's gone the totally other way about it for the sole purpose of drugs, rather than incarceration like the U.S. Jun 27, 2017 at 9:30
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    One thing I have noticed about him is his determination to stop meth. The US is similar. Even in "contained" areas where they look the other way about crack and alcohol use in public, they seriously pursue meth dealers. Cops hate that particular drug. So whether we can measure the success, you can bet that every law enforcement on earth probably wishes they could do the same - try to stomp meth into the ground. But the problem is like eradicating cockroaches. The only way to be successful is to remove their food source. AKA demand.
    – SDsolar
    Jul 4, 2017 at 2:32
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    @SDsolar you can't stop the distribution of drugs, no matter how many cops you throw into the mix. Even countries like Japan or Saudi Arabia have drug dealers and people are constantly punished there for trafficking drugs. You might be able to restrict the inflow to a certain extent, but this will be a massive strain on the budget and is a lot more expensive than trying to reduce the demand instead (replacement therapy, better education, access to free rehab, etc). Jul 7, 2017 at 9:11

1 Answer 1


As indicated by comments, it is very hard to evaluate the effectiveness of the fight against war on drugs. The official data is presented on Wikipedia, but they are challenged by other sources:

Illegal drug use and trade: - Proliferation of drugs: 4 million drug addicts, estimated - Illegal Drug Market: ₱120 billion drug industry, estimated

War on drugs: - Police operations conducted: 53,503 - People arrested: 64,917 - Value of seized drugs and non-drug evidence: ₱14.49 billion - Killed in legitimate police operations: 2,679 - Drug pushers voluntary surrendered: 88,940 - Drug users voluntary surrendered: 1,266,966 - Reduction in drug market: 26.45%[9]

This article dives into more aspects of the war on drugs.

  1. Undervaluation of legitimate killings:

    Nearly 2,300 people have been killed in police operations or by suspected vigilantes since Duterte took office on June 30, according to the Philippines police. That figure was revised down this month by the police from an original tally of 3,600 deaths.

  2. Overestimation of number of drug addicts

    In his inaugural State of the Nation Address on July 25, Duterte declared that there were 3.7 million “drug addicts” in the Philippines.

    “The number is quite staggering and scary,” he said. “I have to slaughter these idiots for destroying my country.”

    But according to a 2015 survey by the Office of the President’s Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), the main drug policy and research unit, the Philippines has fewer than half that many drug users.

  3. Biased means of addiction assessment

    Joanne Csete, a specialist in health and human rights at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York, said that the term “current drug users” usually refers to those who have used drugs in the past month. However, the DDB survey counts anyone who has used drugs in the past 13 months, which Csete says could inflate the number of users.

  4. Biased interpretation of serious crimes decrease and an actual increase in murder rate

    “Index” or serious crimes in the Philippines dropped by 31 percent in January to August this year compared with the same period in 2015, according to police statistics presented to a Senate hearing on extrajudicial killings on Oct. 5.

    But the same police statistics show serious crime was already in decline during the administration of Duterte’s predecessor [...]

    While the crime rate has been dropping for several years, under Duterte the murder rate has risen since he launched his anti-drug campaign.

    Human Rights Watch investigates even more the war on drugs and uncovers other aspects.

  5. Unlawful killings

    Human Rights Watch found that the official police reports of these incidents invariably asserted self-defense to justify police killings, contrary to eyewitness accounts that portray the killings as cold-blooded murders of unarmed drug suspects in custody. To bolster their claims, the police routinely planted guns, spent ammunition, and drug packets next to the victims’ bodies.

  6. Wrong targets

    President Duterte has frequently characterized his “war on drugs” as targeting “drug lords” and “drug pushers.” However, in all but one of the cases investigated by Human Rights Watch, the victims of drug-related killings by the police or unidentified gunmen were poor (the exception was a middle-class victim who appears to have been killed as a result of mistaken identity), and many were suspected drug users, not dealers at all. Almost all of the victims were either unemployed or worked menial jobs, including as rickshaw drivers or porters, and lived in slum neighborhoods or informal settlements.

  7. Public health consequences

    Duterte’s War on Drugs [...] likely to have significant negative public health consequences. Human Rights Watch has documented in various countries that harsh drug enforcement can lead to drug users going underground away from critical health services.1 This can fuel the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C among people who used drugs and may discourage people with drug dependence from seeking effective treatment services.

I cannot provide a direct answer to the question, since success cannot be measured based on achievements only. The cost also matters.

Considering all above, it is very hard to estimate whether the war was successful or not (do the benefits outweigh the cost?). Even if the drug market is significantly reduced, the killings cannot be just ignored. Even if drug related crime if reduced, crime rate has increased and this is partly related to vigilante killings.

  • This is a good answer. There is a lot of data, but not a lot of convincing evidence. Data will be spun to fit either opinion, and ultimately, it's not clear that both sides want the same outcome anyway. Jul 12, 2017 at 21:36
  • @Salmoncrusher - It is clear that both sides do want the same outcome. While Rodrigo Duterte explicitly said he does not care about the human rights, no sane Western leader will ever accept such an approach.
    – Alexei
    Jul 13, 2017 at 4:37
  • Right-- Duterte views elimination of the drug problem at any cost to be a success. Western leaders would not. That seems like a difference in opinion in the desired outcome Jul 13, 2017 at 14:25

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