Duterte’s Latest Public Backlash Over “War on Drugs”
By admin October 10, 2017


Before being elected president, President Duterte was the mayor of Davao City for more than two decades. There, Duterte endorsed the activities of the notorious “Davao Death Squad,” which had killed hundreds of drug users, street children, and other criminals. Although he denied any involvements in the death squad, he stated they were an effective way of combatting crime. Prior to announcing his candidacy for the May 2016 presidential election, Duterte further stated his intention to eliminate criminals similar to his role in Davao City. His outspoken vow to launch a national campaign against drug dealers and users became his presidential electoral platform.

Following his election, Duterte has committed to his vow of eliminating drug dealers and users, with the Philippine National Police (PNP) officers and unidentified vigilantes killing over 7,000 people, although the government claims the number is less at 3,800. The PNP officers receive funding and training from the United States and have systematically partaken in late-night raids that often resemble executions. Thousands have been killed in these raids, and thousands more have been murdered by masked assassins, often after being accused of doing drugs. The anti-drug campaign supposedly targeted suspected drug dealers and users ostensibly for arrest, but the reality has been a campaign of extrajudicial execution in mostly impoverished areas of Manila and other urban areas. Duterte has praised the soaring body count of victims in these police killings as proof of success in the “war on drugs.”

Human Rights Watch has launched investigations into the extrajudicial executions – the deliberate killing by state security forces or agents of a person in custody. The organization has specifically discovered that in many cases, it begins with an individual receiving a visit or a phone call from an official in the local neighborhood informing them that they were on a drug “watch list” as identified by the local officials and police. These visits often did not serve as warnings, but rather as confirmation of the identity and whereabouts of a target. After contact, the shooting either happens immediately behind closed doors or on the street, or the gunman would take the suspect away and shot. Furthermore, their investigations have shown that these killings were not carried out by “rogue” officers or by “vigilantes” operating independently of the authorities, indicating the police are more involved than what Duterte’s administration states. The scope of these brutal killings has prompted the International Criminal Court’s lead prosecutor to warn that Duterte and his top general, Ronald dela Rosa could be investigated on charges of crimes against humanity.

This survey comes after the latest brutal death of a 17-year old student where CCTV footage shows that of police dragging the student for minutes before he was shot and killed. Although Duterte generally remains popular, the survey outcome and this recent killing has reignited calls by several groups for an end to the killings of mostly poor suspects under his brutal crackdown against illegal drugs. Duterte has been talking occasionally about due process after these recent events, but so far, he has mixed these messages with calls for more violence.

Further Reading:

Mass protest in Philippines over Duterte ‘dictatorship’

Duterte’s police have killed thousands in the Philippines. But this police chief told his officers, ‘Don’t kill.’

Philippine President Duterte’s satisfaction rating drops amid drug killings

Philippines’ ‘War on Drugs’

Duterte Support Tumbles After Minors Die in Philippine Drug War

Philippine Police Killings in Duterte’s “War on Drugs”

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