Manny Pacquiao, Admitted Drug User, Supports Anti-Drug Death Squads in the Philippines

Fightland Blog

By Josh Rosenblatt

Photo by Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

If you woke up this morning looking for more proof of the absurdity of the global war on drugs or the madness of electing a megalomaniac with a hard-on for “law and order” to be president of your country or even if you were just searching for another reason to hate Manny Pacquaio, the news out of the Philippines this week is everything you could have hoped for.

In an interview released today, Pacquiao, a boxer and member of the Philippines senate, admitted that as a young man growing up in the small city of Kibawe he occasionally did drugs. “I tried drugs ... many kinds of drugs, all kinds of drugs,” he said, before assuring reporters that phase of his life was over “before I became a champion.”

That a teenager liked to get high isn’t news, of course. It’s the oldest story there is. But Pacquiao was making his confession as part of a larger conversation about his support for the anti-drug policies of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, a policy that essentially gives police and vigilante groups extrajudicial free rein to murder anyone they suspect of taking, selling, or manufacturing illegal drugs. Since Duterte took office on June 30, more than 3000 people have been killed by anti-drug forces, some of them ad hoc death squads, others actual police, as part of Campaign Plan Double Barrel.

Harsh, sure, but it’s not like Duterte didn’t warn people. During his time as mayor of the city of Davao Duterte admitted having ties to the Davao Death Squad, a vigilante group that human rights organizations say was responsible for the extrajudicial killings of more than 1000 drug dealers, users, petty criminals, and even street children. Running on a severe law-and-order platform for the presidency, Duterte said over and over that if he were to become president his policies in Davao would become the model for the entire country.

“[If] I become president, you all better hide. I will kill all of you," he said in 2015, addressing the country’s criminal element. “Me? They are saying that I'm part of a death squad? True, that's true. I do not want to commit a crime but if by chance, God will place me there, you all better watch out. That 1000 will become 100,000. I'll dump all of you into Manila Bay, and fatten all the fish there."

Okay, that doesn’t sound great, I know, but don’t be fooled by all the assassinations and executions and “drug watch lists” and murdered children and fish fattening. To hear Manny Pacquiao tell it, the president is actually a very “nice guy … a respectful person, a hospitable person, a friendly person.” And to prove his affection for him, the boxer has been one of the most vocal supporters of Duterte’s draconian drug policies in the senate, calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty for drug dealers and even leading the charge to oust the chair of the committee that was investigating Duterte’s connections to those vigilante groups in Davao.

Besides, despite Pacquiao’s admitted past dalliances with illegal drugs (dalliances he says his close friend the president doesn’t yet know about, though Pacquaio says he’s not worried: ““[Duterte] always gives a chance to people who want to be changed,”) he believes Duterte has been sent by god to clean up the country by any means necessary, and that the people of the Philippines are therefore required by divine injunction to follow the commands of the man he calls “the anointed one.” "God put him there for a reason, for a purpose—to discipline the people,” Pacquiao, an admitted former drug user, said. "In the past administrations, people didn't respect the law, the leader, the authorities. What Duterte is trying to do is let the people know—and put it in their heart and minds—that you need to respect the laws of the land."

Sure, one could make the argument that if the drug policies Pacquaio so avidly supports now had been in effect 20 years ago the pound-for-pound boxing great who made history by becoming the sport’s first and only eight-division world champion, and who dragged himself out of poverty to earn more than $500 million over a legendary career, becoming a national hero and a senator in the process, could very easily have been murdered by government-sanctioned anti-drug gangs, snuffed out before he had a chance to make something of his life, but it’s not for us, you see, to question god or try to understand his mysteries. As the man Himself says in the Book of Isaiah, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” And in the Philippines, the same goes for His servant Rodrigo Duterte.


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