An international non-governmental organization has named Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte 2017’s “Person of the Year” for his controversial campaign against illegal drugs.
The title was given by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which annually recognizes an individual who “has done the most in the world to advance organized criminal activity and corruption.”
In a statement released Thursday, December 28, OCCRP said its panel—which is composed of nine corruption-fighting journalists, scholars and activists—chose Duterte “on the strength of his brutal war on drugs.”
OCCRP highlighted that the “blunt, swaggering and profane” president has “vigorously implemented his pledge to use any tactic necessary to stop drug use” in the Philippines.
It also cited Duterte’s “disturbing” comparison of German Adolf Hitler’s annihilation of three millions of Jews to his bid to “slaughter” three million drug addicts during one of his speeches in September last year.
Duterte was the runner-up for OCCRP’s “Person of the Year” award in 2016 but the title was given to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
This year, the Philippine leader beat out runners-up South African President Jacob Zuma and recently ousted Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe for the title.
Drew Sullivan, editor for OCCRP and one of the judges for selection, said the Philippine president has “made a mockery of rule of law in his country.”
“While he is not your typical corrupt leader, he has empowered corruption in an innovative way. His death squads have allegedly focused on criminals but, in fact, are less discriminating,” Sullivan added.
He also claimed that Duterte has “empowered a bully-run system of survival of the fiercest.”
“In the end, the Philippines are more corrupt, more cruel, less democratic,” Sullivan further said.
The eradication of illegal drugs in the country was among Duterte’s major campaign promises that paved way for his landslide victory during the 2016 presidential election. Since launching his so-called drug war, thousands of drug suspects have been killed, earning condemnation from human rights advocates.
Based on his administration’s yearend report, there were 3,967 “drug personalities” who died in anti-drug operations.
The figure, however, has been disputed by Duterte’s critics and international rights groups, which pegged the death toll at around 12,000 since the campaign’s launch last year.
“Philippine officials put the real number of drug users at 1.8 million, but Duterte has overseen the killing of more than 7,000 and possibly as many as 12,000. The statistics are hard to pin down because Duterte’s National Police suppress all critical reports,” OCCRP’s statement read.
OCCRP further claimed that the police are “spared from any accountability or legal consequences for a campaign that has left bodies in the streets.”
Amid criticisms, the Duterte administration had repeatedly insisted that it values right to life and does not tolerate abuses.