Civil Groups Ask Apple to Remove Games Based on PH Drug War


Reuters obtained an open letter sent by the Asian Network of People Who Use Drugs (ANPUD) to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

In it, the ANPUD, which represents support from 131 organizations around the world, asks Apple to remove games on the app store based on the war on drugs being waged in the Philippines by president Rodrigo Duterte. They allege that these games violate Apple’s own guidelines and promote violence and killings that have become commonplace in the Philippines.

Apps / games cited include Duterte Knows Kung Fu, Duterte Vs Zombies, Fighting Crime 2, and Tsip Bato. These apps feature characters based not only on Duterte but the current national police chief, Ronaldo “Bato” dela Rosa, in some variation of gun battles and fistfights against criminals.

“These games valorise and normalise the emerging tyranny of Duterte’s presidency and his government’s disregard for human rights principles,” the letter reads, also adding that while they “might seem harmless and fun” but were offensive and distasteful because in reality, murder and impunity had prevailed.

In addition to removing the games, the letter asks that Apple issue an apology for allowing “insensitive content on its store.” While the company did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters, Ranida Games, the developers of Tsip Bato, maintained that the game discourages drug use with anti-drug banner messages.

Ranida Games’ managing partner Ben Joseph Banta said, “We understand the human rights groups and we’re very much open to make changes in the game in order to remove the stigma that the game is promoting violence.”

This is not the first time Apple has drawn criticism for games content on its store with political subject matter. In 2013, the game Sweatshop HD was removed from the Apple store despite insistence from the developer that the game was developed as industrial commentary and fact-checked by a workers’ rights group. That same year also saw Apple reject an educational game about the Syrian conflict.