There has been a lot of news lately comparing U.S. President Donald Trump to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. They have many personal qualities in common: both tend to be bullying in their public pronouncements and in their dealings with the press; they tend to simplify issues; they are very critical of dissent and name call anyone who disagrees with their policies.
There are differences between the two men. Duterte has had 20 years of experience as mayor of Davao with dealing with government bureaucracy while Trump has no government experience. Duterte’s policies are more left wing, while Trump’s policies draw from ideas from the right wing.
Since my political views tend to lean towards the left, I support some of Duterte’s efforts at agrarian reform, expanding social programs for the poor and in reigning in the power of mining companies that have been the source of much human rights abuses in the Mindanao area of the Philippines. For instance, I support the The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) decision to close 23 mining operations in several areas in the country that are near watersheds.
But I cannot support Duterte’s use of extrajudicial killings in his war against drugs in the Philippines. So far over 7,000 people have been killed by either the police or vigilante groups for only being suspected of a crime. These victims had no opportunity to defend themselves in a court of law. They had no way of seeing the evidence against them.
Many groups have spoken out against the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
The youth group Anakbayan today declared August 11, Thursday, a “Day of Action” against the spate of extrajudicial killings that has been spawned in the wake of the Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs.
“We call on everyone to join our day of action this August 11 to strongly register our call to stop the killings. While the campaign against dangerous drugs is laudable, we express grave concern over the way this has been carried out so far,” said Anakbayan National Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo.
“The president’s ‘I really do not care’ attitude on the rising death toll of his administration’s campaign against drugs is very alarming. Even crime suspects have human rights. Their right to life and due process must be respected,” he said.
The youth leader said a fearsome scenario has emerged wherein those who hold the gun are both the accusers and executioners. “While criminals must indeed be punished, the innocence or guilt of those accused cannot anymore be determined if they are just shot on sight,” said Crisostomo.
The anti-drug war of the Duterte regime has rapidly spiralled into a frenzied campaign of extra-judicial killings and vigilante murders perpetrated by the police and by police-linked criminal syndicates. Nearly 1,000 people have been killed in just a little more than one month. The rights of tens upon thousands of people are being violated as the criminal justice system is upturned.
Police officials have brazenly carried out summary killings against suspected drug peddlers and users. Hundreds have been killed while “resisting arrest” or while under custody and detention, in police cars as well as in jails
Duterte’s “drug war” has clearly become anti-people and anti-democratic. Human rights are being violated with impunity by police personnel, emboldened by Duterte’s assurances of “I got your back” and his public declarations of contempt against human rights…
…What was before the burden of the accuser to prove someone’s guilt is now the burden of the accused to prove his innocence. Duterte has come up with one list after another of so-called protectors, narco-politicians and judges without proof nor clear basis for accusations of their involvement in drugs.
We are alarmed by the recent wave of extrajudicial killings that have taken place at the hands of police officers, and especially of vigilantes roaming our streets unchecked and un-apprehended. Such violent procedure in tackling the situation mentioned above has caused justified apprehension among the majority of our citizen who are against any form of drug trafficking but expect justice to be rendered according to law.
We believe that any attitude and course of action that disregards the basic principles of modern jurisprudence that any person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that justice has to be rendered by following due process, has to be avoided.
We believe, likewise, that the disregard of such principles, even in the pursuance of a praiseworthy aim, such as the protection of families and of the youth, may inevitably lead to serious and irreparable injustices such as the killing of innocent people, and even simple drug users who are, actually, the direct victims of the drug traffickers/pushers.
Here is an excerpt of a statement by Phelim Kine for Human Rights Watch against extrajudicial killings.
The Philippine National Police confirmed that this week the death toll of Filipinos killed as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s abusive “war on drugs” surpassed the 7,000 mark.
Those 7,028 people – an average of more than 30 killed each day since Duterte assumed office on June 30, 2016 – include 2,503 suspected drug users and drug dealers killed by police and 3,603 killings by “unidentified gunmen.” Those numbers are the appalling but predictable result of Duterte’s vow that as president he would, “Forget the laws on human rights.”
They also symbolize the wider systems-failure that has exposed thousands of Filipinos to the threat of summary killings. Police justify those 2,503 killings, saying that the victims “resisted arrest and shot at police officers.” But police have not provided further evidence that officers acted in self-defense. There are allegations that “death squads” composed of plainclothes police personnel are behind some of the “unidentified gunmen” killings. Revelations last week that police officers kidnapped and then strangled to death a South Korean businessman – after raiding his home using a fake arrest warrant falsely implicated him in illegal drug activities – have deepened such suspicions.
Pro-Duterte lawmakers scuttled a Senate probe into the drug war killings in September. And by subjecting the drug war’s most prominent critic, Senator Leila de Lima, to a torrent of harassment and intimidation, Duterte and senior government officials have stifled meaningful scrutiny by lawmakers. An army of pro-Duterte internet trolls systematically harasses, intimidates, and threatens into silence individuals who question the drug war’s logic or legality.
Here is an AJ+ video on extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. Thousands of people have been dragged from their homes and executed on the streets since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared a new war on drugs. Police are allegedly playing both sides of the war, while contract killers do the dirty work and users surrender to jail cells, in fear of their lives. Follow along with photojournalists on the front lines of the murder beat, where killings are a daily occurrence and the streets run with blood.
Andrew Glazer of The New York Times takes us inside the grim reality of Duterte’s war on drugs in Manila.