MANILA – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called on Wednesday former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria an “idiot” for advising him to abandon his controversial and heavy-handed campaign against drugs.
Cesar Gaviria, who headed the Colombian government between 1990 and 1994, had written an article in the Spanish edition of The New York Times, urging Rodrigo Duterte not to repeat the mistakes made by his country because a tough stance does not give results and comes at a huge cost.
Gaviria “has been lecturing about my (war on drugs)... that idiot,” Duterte retorted during a speech in Manila during the commemoration of the 115th founding anniversary of the Bureau of Customs in the Philippines.
Duterte also stressed on the difference between cocaine, the product managed with by the Colombian cartels, and methamphetamine or “shabu,” a potent hallucinogen very popular among impoverished communities in the Philippines.
Duterte said that cocaine and marijuana are “kind of okay” as people who ingest them can still communicate; but with shabu, just the fact that is mixed with battery water is a clear sign of its impact on mental capacity.
Duterte noted that he has received much criticism over the war on drugs, but insisted the Philippines will be reduced to slavery if they do not control drugs, especially with the number of addicts totaling 4.5 million.
Gaviria headed the government during the harshest years during the anti-drug war in Colombia, which for decades has been the highest producer of cocaine in the world.
During his term, the then-head of the Medellin cartel, Pablo Escobar, was jailed; but he escaped and was finally gunned down by the security forces while fleeing through a neighborhood in Medellin.
This is not the first time Duterte has abused and insulted those critical of him. He also called former US president Barack Obama a “son of a bitch,” and has also used the same term to refer to bishops in the Philippines.
Duterte considers the drug menace to be the greatest problem plaguing the nation, and upon being sworn in on June 30 last year, he launched a violent war on drugs implicitly granting impunity for the extra-judicial killings of drug traffickers and addicts during the campaign.
More than 7,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the anti-drugs drive, of which at least 2,500 were suspects killed in police operations.
Currently the operations remain suspended to cleanse or wipe out corruption from the police system, but Duterte intends to continue with the campaign until his term ends in 2022.