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Netflix Buys Philippines Drug War Series Made by Duterte Supporter

Netflix will be streaming a thriller series set during the Philippines’ drug war slaughter. The show was made by a director who supports Duterte’s brutal crackdown and has worked for his regime.

Netflix has acquired the rights to the new Filipino series, Amo (Boss), which will be available to stream from April 9. The 12-part thriller series follows a high school student who finds himself "entangled in the violent and dangerous circle of drug lords, crooked cops, and corrupt government officials" after selling methamphetamine, according to a press release. According to a press release, the show explores “controversies revolving around the Philippine National Police in the government’s campaign against drugs, as well as its role in rightfully enforcing it”.

The story takes place within the context of the ongoing mass slaughter of people for alleged drug offences in the Philippines, which is estimated to have killed as many as 12,000 people since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2016.

Netflix’ vice-president of content acquisition Robert Roy praised the “bold and suspenseful show” for having “the potential of capturing thrill-seeking audiences worldwide.”

Amo was directed by Brillante Mendoza, an acclaimed Filipino filmmaker who has lauded Duterte’s approach to drugs and has supported the regime’s public communications.

“If there’s one person who understands the situation [with drugs in the Philippines], it’s the president,” Mendoza has said. “I know there are a lot of people who are not supportive in totality of what he wants and what he’s doing right now, but if you actually have witnessed the real situation, this is the way to go about it.”

He has challenged foreign critics of Duterte’s drug war slaughter; “I would tell them you don’t know our president. You are only seeing it from your perspective as somebody who lives far away from the Philippines. Because you are living in a first-world country.” 

Mendoza has previously lent his directing skills to the Duterte regime. In September 2016, the Presidential Communications Office released a series of anti-drug videos, depicting drug use as life-shattering, which Mendoza directed for the state. Mendoza has also been the director of Duterte’s last two State of the Union Addresses, in 2016 and 2017.

As TalkingDrugs has previously reported, poor people – especially those living in slums – have been disproportionately targeted during Duterte’s mass slaughter of people for alleged drug offences, although precise figures are unclear. One Philippines Supreme Court associate justice has condemned the regime’s approach for "going after the small-time peddlers [rather than] the big-time drug lords”. In February 2018, the International Criminal Court launched an inquiry into allegations of crimes against humanity committed by Duterte and his regime.

Mendoza claims that he is not supportive of the mass extrajudicial killing of poor people, but seems willing to accept it as part and parcel of Duterte's drug war. "I am not advocating that people who are poor should be put to death. But then, at the end of the day, we shouldn't only see [the drug war] in that perspective," he has said, "there are a lot of sides we have to consider".

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