After watching the news about Duterte the candidate and then Duterte the President all year, I had to learn more about what was happening – why were there so many pictures of street executions, women weeping over their loved ones, gruesome crime scenes held up triumphantly as victories? This was the face of Duterte’s war on drugs, and I was puzzled by what seemed to be a strange silence from some of the people I knew on the Philippine left. I interviewed human rights activists, anti-addiction counselors, professors, and many others who are grappling with this violent and bloody war.
Sept. 1, 2016 ‘Will Anyone Stop Rodrigo Duterte?’
The new president of the Philippines is behind an anti-drug campaign that has claimed nearly 2,500 lives. And he’s just getting started.
Since Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency of the Philippines eight weeks ago, the same scene has unfolded night after night in the slum neighborhoods of Manila: A shot rings out, and a person lies dead on the street with a cardboard sign laid next to him, scrawled with a single word: “Pusher.”
This is how Duterte’s war on drugs is playing out on the ground. It is a punitive campaign spurred by the president’s promises of immunity and even bounties to those who take drug users and traffickers “dead or alive.” Last week, the national police chief testified during a Senate inquiry that more than 1,900 people suspected of being involved in the drug trade or abusing drugs had been shot dead by police or “vigilantes” (that number now approaches 2,500). Over 10,000 people have been arrested, and at least 675,000 people have voluntarily surrendered to the authorities.
The numbers are staggering, but what remains unclear is whether those killed and imprisoned are even involved in the drug trade. According to bereaved relatives, Duterte’s take-no-prisoners approach has claimed former addicts, spouses of suspected drug peddlers, and even a 5-year old child as casualties. “Mothers are approaching me every week as their sons are threatened or listed in police precincts,” said Jean Enriquez, a long-time feminist leader who belongs to a coalition of 50 Philippine human rights organizations. “Being listed could mean death.”
Read more here.