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'Fighting Crime' app glorifies Philippine President Duterte's crackdown on crime

The Philippine president's violent anti-drug campaign has been met with widespread international condemnation. But the success of a Filipino app highlights the growing divide between Western and domestic opinion on him.

"Fighting Crime 2," a Filipino smartphone game which glorifies President Duterte's brutal anti-drug crackdown, has been downloaded 2 million times from the Apple and Google Play stores.

The game, which has a mature rating on Google Play, turns the president into a gun-slinging killer, brandishing anything from a hand gun to an assault rifle to bazookas and grenades as he racks up points killing drug dealers, petty criminals and knife-wielding psychopaths.

Players of the game are urged to "get weapons for destruction, earn badges and teach them a lesson to stop crime," with the app even featuring real personalities from the Philippine crackdown campaign. One of them, national police chief Ronald Dela Rosa (or "Bato"), whose machine gun mows down hoards of criminals, as well as the late Miriam Defensor Santiago, a Philippine senator and International Criminal Court judge who ran against Duterte during the last campaign ... but whose in-game fireballs help him turn criminals into ashes.

A controversial man

"Fighting Crime 2" is based on the real-life anti-crime campaign Duterte enacted when he took office just over three months ago. The crackdown has led to fears police are carrying out extrajudicial killings and breaking the law in order to carry out the president's orders of eliminating illegal drugs. 

Such policies have resulted in concerns and condemnations voiced by the United States, European Union and United Nations, but Duterte has responded forcefully to each of these critiques, canceling a planned meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Duterte has also crudely insulted US President Barack Obama and the EU during two separate speeches.

On other occasions, he has jokingly compared his own role in the drug killings to that of former German dictator Adolf Hitler and has openly dared the CIA to attempt and oust him from his seat.

Philipinen Präsident Rodrigo Duterte (Picture-Alliance/AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Duterte recently promised to 'humiliate' UN, EU and US leaders by 'playing with them' in public

Strong support

Such language has caused outside observers to compare Duterte to American presidential candidate Donald Trump.

In the Philippines, however, Duterte is seen as "tough" and remains highly popular.

A poll from October, conducted after his first 90 days in office, showed more than three in four Filipinos saying Duterte was doing a "neutral," "good" or "very good" job. Just one in nine disapproved of the president, according to local pollsters Social Weather Stations. Duterte won the election in May in a landslide victory.

The game's creator, Joseph Anthony Pascual, told DW he created the game because he liked Rodrigo Duterte.

"There were a lot of bad things happening before in our country, like crime and drugs. And he always said that he could change it. That's why we wanted change. So we created this game," he said.

Pascual added that he finds the president very "entertaining" and believes most of the game's players also like Dutertet. Reviews of the game on Google Play and Apple's iTunes store are generally positive, with a combined 4.4 average out of five stars.

"[I] can't stop playing this game, this game is too amazing because it really portrays our patriotic president. [It] was even made better with the help of Miriam [Defensor Santiago] and "Bato" [Ronald Dela Rosa] … [It is] a good concept by the developer. Kudos," wrote user Rex Biescas.

The developer said he was surprised at the app's popularity and that he plans to add further features to the "Crime Fighter" game, like more weapons, extra "help" calls and more characters.

President Duterte, meanwhile, has promised "good entertainment" during upcoming meetings with the UN, EU and US.

"You wait for it. You watch it. It will be good," he told a group of businessmen on Thursday.

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