Philippine business bankrolls Duterte’s anti-drug crusade


MANILA — Five months since formally assuming power and launching a deadly anti-narcotics campaign that has claimed around 5,000 lives, President Rodrigo Duterte on Nov. 29 inaugurated the country’s largest drug rehabilitation center at a military camp north of the capital.

The 10,000-bed facility can only accommodate a fraction of more than 700,000 methamphetamine users who have voluntarily turned themselves in to authorities since July, but it represents a different side to the crackdown and killings by police and vigilantes.

 The centre is a place for surrendered addicts “who want to take back their lives and become productive members of society”, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said at the inauguration.
 The centre, the first of a number planned by the government, was financed with donations from businessmen.

Huang Rulun, a real estate developer from China who previously lived in the Philippines, is the top donor with 1.4 billion pesos ($28.2 million). “Drugs wreck the country and bring ruin to the people,” he said at the event. “It is the common enemy of all mankind.”

An elated Duterte characterized Rulun as a “good Samaritan” and contrasted him with those who have condemned his war on drugs, particularly in the U.S.

Philippine construction giant DMCI Holdings and Megaworld, which is part of local conglomerate Alliance Global Group, have also contributed. DMCI said it donated 23 million pesos worth of building materials and furniture. Megaworld did not respond to queries.

Prior to the inauguration, a number of major companies offered to support Duterte’s war on drugs. Communication Secretary Martin Andanar said in August that mall operator SM Prime Holdings had agreed to screen anti-drug campaigns in SM cinemas free. The Department of Interior and Local Government in September said representatives of JG Summit Holdings, Ayala Corp., and Jollibee Foods, and some other leading companies, had committed to supporting construction of rehab centers.

Benjamin Sandoval, who teaches business at the University of the Philippines, described these offers as “proactive public relations” with companies accruing brownie points for future crises.

“What they are doing now is hitting two birds with one stone: helping the government and being in the administration’s good graces,” said Sandoval.