Rodrigo Duterte labelled 'sociopath' as opponents join forces on martial law anniversary

Rodrigo Duterte labelled 'sociopath' as opponents join forces on martial law anniversary

Rodrigo Duterte labelled 'sociopath' as opponents join forces on martial law anniversary

Updated 21 September 2017, 13:20 AEST

Opponents of President Rodrigo Duterte's ruthless war on drugs have massive protests planned for the 45th anniversary of martial law in the Philippines.

Opponents of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's ruthless war on drugs — which has claimed the lives of thousands of men, woman and children — are finally joining forces.

And from inside the walls of a VIP detention facility in Manila, one critic has gone so far as to call him a "beast" and a "sociopath".

Thousands of people have been gunned down in the state-sanctioned, year-long crackdown, primarily poor Filipinos.

The 45th anniversary of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos's declaration of martial law has become a rallying point, with a national day of protest declared.

But speaking out about human rights violations comes at a price.

Political opponents of the President have been silenced, or, as in the case of the former chair of the Commission on Human Rights, detained — on charges she claims are trumped up.

Last year, the President warned Senator Leila de Lima she would "rot in jail".

Not long after he issued that warning, she was arrested and charged with drug trafficking. She's accused of aiding the illegal drug trade inside a national jail when she was justice secretary.

Many believe she was framed.

Senator de Lima is now in a special detention facility at Camp Crame, the national police headquarters in Manila, which under Marcos was a major detention facility.

The Senator raised the President's ire by instigating an inquiry into police death squads in the city of Davao — where President Duterte was once the mayor. That position is now held by his daughter.

On the eve of her surrender to the authorities six months ago, Senator de Lima faced the cameras.

"I'll say it again, I am innocent — there's no truth and all the accusations are lies," she told the media.

"They accused me of benefiting from drug money, they accused me of receiving. They accuse me of coddling or protecting convicts. It's all lies."

I made contact with Senator De Lima through her staff before I travelled to the Philippines.

Access is tightly controlled at the detention facility, but Senator De Lima agreed to meet me as a friend.

I was added to the visitor's list and on the prescribed day, presented at Camp Crame.

I wasn't allowed to take in cameras or recording equipment, so when we met, we made notes together.

Senator de Lima remained defiant — she said President Duterte is a "beast" and a "sociopath".

In the space of a year, it's estimated that more than 12,000 people have been killed in the state-sanctioned war against drug users and dealers.

And Senator de Lima said that ultimately, President Duterte is responsible for their deaths.

Church leaders speaking out

The Catholic Church is one of the country's few other pockets of resistance against President Duterte's drug war.

The Church has been damaged in recent years by political baggage and its conservative stance on contraception, and is no longer the country's first stop for political or moral guidance.

But Catholic Filipinos still worship in droves, and Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the Auxiliary Bishop of Manila, agreed to speak with me.

"The situation is bad now because it is extrajudicial killings — that means there is no process," he said.

"People are being killed on the mere suspicion that they are drug addicts or drug carriers."

The Church has been slow to take on the President, but it is speaking out now and urging others to do so.

"We were not speaking in public … there were efforts to speak to the President in private to see if this can be done privately. But it seems that it could not — that's why you have to speak in public," said Bishop Pabillo.

"Besides, we [have] to bring it out in public to educate the people that this is wrong, that this can not continue."

'Our law allows it'

In an effort to shield his drug crackdown from criticism, the President has taken the extraordinary step of telling police to kill his eldest son if they find him involved in the narcotics trade.

Paolo Duterte, the vice mayor of Davao, faced a Senate inquiry this month accused of involvement in the drug trade — a claim he dismissed as "baseless".

According to local media, in a speech to Filipino workers this week, the President reiterated that he told his son:

"My order is to kill you if you are caught and I will protect the police who will kill you."

Jesus "Jess" Dureza is a former classmate of and now adviser to President Duterte.

Few of the President's close friends have spoken publicly about him, but Mr Dureza — who says he helped convince his friend to run for the presidency — agreed to share his thoughts.

Both men are lawyers, and according to Mr Dureza both are aware of the legal boundaries of this battle.

"You can kill people, but it has to be under justifiable reasons, and our law allows it," he said.

"Your problem is that every killing is supposed to be condemned.

"Now, don't view us from your own standards of Australia or Europe. We are different."

I asked him how and why the Philippines are different.

"Well, we have common shared values and respect for human dignity, human rights," Mr Dureza said.

"But we have very different social issues and problems.

"If other foreign countries consider drug use as something they can tolerate and allow, and even try to contain without addressing it forcefully — that's your privilege."

Watch Ginny Stein's stories from Manila Wednesday and Thursday on Lateline at 9:30pm AEST on ABC News and 10:30pm on ABC TV. Listen to Background Briefing via podcast on Friday or on RN at 8:00am Sunday.