President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his speech during the inauguration of the Bataan Government Center and Business Hub “The Bunker” in Balanga City, Bataan on Sept. 12, 2019.
Toto Lozano/Presidential Photo
Palace slams foreign docufilm on Duterte's drug war
Alexis Romero ( - September 17, 2019 - 6:51pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang Tuesday slammed the documentary "On the President's Orders" for supposedly peddling "disinformation" about President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial war on narcotics and "overdramatizing" the investigations on drug-related deaths.

The documentary, which was produced by Frontline and Mongoose Pictures, was described in its official website as "the searing story of President Duterte's bloody campaign against drug dealers and addicts in the Philippines, told with unprecedented and intimate access to both sides of the war - the Manila police and an ordinary family from the slum."

READ: Police numbers underreport drug war killings — think tank

A two-minute trailer of the docufilm showed footage of policemen conducting raids in slums, slain drug suspects, and Duterte promising not to end his war on drugs until the last drug lord is killed.

It also showed clips of police officials explaining the narcotics crackdown and activists who accuse the president of deliberately putting in place "a permission structure for mass murder."

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said based on the trailer and commentaries on the docufilm, it appears that "On the President's Orders" is the latest addition to "unmitigated vilifications" against the anti-drug campaign.

"The Palace is vexed by the continuous spread of disinformation against our country’s campaign against illegal drugs and criminality," Panelo said in a statement. 

"Foreign audiences have been saturated with false and baseless narratives relative to the Philippine government's anti-narcotics approach, specifically on the nature and number of deaths arising from police operations against it," he added.

READ: Docu on Duterte’s drug war to be shown in New York human rights film fest

Panelo claimed even the title of the documentary "reeks with malice, making it appear that the drug-related deaths were done upon the orders of (the president)."

"It is obvious that the film medium is riding on the coattails of the president's international popularity and success, and is being used as a medium to espouse a one-sided information bordering to black propaganda aimed at gullible foreign audiences who know little or zero-knowledge about the Philippines and its government," the presidential spokesman said.

Panelo said it is easy to select fractions of video clips or sound bites "that serve the purpose of the filmmakers in falsely portraying a dangerous Philippines and a murderous government while omitting scenes that reflect the opposite."

He claimed moviegoers are more inclined to watch a thrilling film that depicts a country as menacing instead of a lackluster motion picture showcasing its progress and development.

"The docufilm, together with its so-called cinematic investigation on drug-related deaths, evidently has been deliberately overdramatized for the purpose, apart from putting the Philippines in a bad light, of creating a better cinematic experience for its audience. We caution its potential viewers to be circumspect in evaluating the truthfulness of the film," Panelo said.

READ: Documentary delves into police psyche in drug war

Panelo went on to defend the controversial crackdown, saying illegal drug trade is a billion-peso industry that has infiltrated 97% of Philippine barangays or small villages. He said the anti-drug campaign, which critics claim encourages human rights violations and extrajudicial killings, is "anchored primarily on national security and public safety."

"Three years to the war on drugs and residents in the country now feel safer and secure with 7 out of 10 Filipinos being satisfied with the way President Rodrigo Roa Duterte handles the campaign," Panelo said.

The president's spokesman also reiterated that drug-related killings were not state-sponsored or initiated but were consequences of violent resistance on the part of people that policemen tried to arrest. He noted that scores of policemen were killed or were injured during operations.

"A number of these deaths is also caused by members of the prohibited drug industry who kill each other because of, among others, rivalry, botched deals and swindling," Panelo added.

READ: Philippines decries 'anti-Duterte' BBC documentary

He reiterated that Duterte is a "strict enforcer of the law" and does not tolerate abusive police officers.

"They are not – and will never be – exempted from administrative sanction and criminal prosecution should there be an abuse on their part. As he stated in his first State of the Nation Address, those who abuse their authority will have hell to pay," Panelo said.

"On the President's Orders" was directed by James Jones and Olivier Sarbil. It will be screened in Manila, London, Bergen, Zurich, New York and Los Angeles.

The war on drugs has so far left more than 5,000 people dead based on official figures but human rights advocates claim the death toll from the campaign may have already exceeded 20,000.

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