Filipinos deeply conflicted on Duterte's drug war

Paras's seemingly paradoxical backing echoes that of millions of Filipinos, who polls say support the crackdown but not the thousands of slayings that are central to it.

Filipinos deeply conflicted on Duterte's drug war

Jailed drug user Bitoy Paras perks up when describing his support for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's deadly war on narcotics, an unlikely fan of a campaign that has left Filipinos deeply conflicted.

"Duterte talks tough, saying he will get rid of addicts... I am happy he's doing that," he told AFP at Manila's main jail, which is packed with drug suspects.

"But I feel uneasy about the killings," said the 22-year-old rickshaw driver, whose real name cannot be used due to prison policy. 

Duterte's drug war -- his signature initiative -- helped bring him to power in mid-2016, promising to rid society of narcotics by any means necessary. 

Since then, police say they have killed 4,854 alleged drug users or dealers in self-defence, while rights groups estimate the true toll is at least triple that.

According to the latest survey by pollster SWS, the campaign still has the backing of 78 percent of Filipinos, a figure undented in over a year. 

Drug war proponents regularly point to these statistics as proof that the internationally-condemned crackdown is the will of the people.

But those same polls show near unanimous agreement -- 96 percent -- among the nation in opposition to the killing, saying the suspects should be taken alive.