Source: AntiMedia/Darius Shahtahmasebi
This week, police in the Philippines killed 32 people in one night in a series of drug raids near Manila, the Guardian reported.
The recent spate of deaths between Monday and Tuesday came only hours before President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to kill human rights groups that get in the way of his brutal war on drugs.
According to the Guardian, Supt. Romeo Caramat said 67 police operations in various parts of the Bulacan province had left 32 “drug personalities” dead and more than 100 in custody.
“We wanted to shock and awe these drug personalities,” he said, according to the Guardian. “Other drug personalities will think twice before continuing with their drug trade.”
Since Duterte took office last July, government figures show that police have killed close to 3,500 “drug personalities.” However, the real death toll is reportedly much higher, with some estimates suggesting well over 7,000 have been killed.
Clearly, the Philippines is grappling a unique drug problem, but it can be safely assumed that Duterte’s current strategy will not pay off in the long run. There are many parts of the country that are viable for cannabis cultivation, and even though many of these plantations have been destroyed, the local distribution of marijuana has only increased.
Unsurprisingly, poverty is deemed to be the major factor behind the Philippines’ current drug problem.
“There wasn’t enough employment, or social resources, so everyone needed a second job,” said Clarke Jones, a professor at Australian National University who has studied drug dealing in the Philippines, the LA Times reports. “Duterte might be trying to eliminate the drug market — which will never happen, by the way — but he’s failed to realize, what’s going to replace those funds?”
Many people in the Philippines are hugely reliant on overseas remittances, which account for about 10 percent of the Philippines’ annual GDP. This is why more than 10 million Filipinos work overseas; the country does not provide a stable financial environment for much of the local population. As long as there is poverty, one can expect to find drug-related crime, no matter how many people Duterte kills.
Despite this very clear drug-related issue, police have allegedly been planting evidence to justify the spate of killings in Duterte’s war.
“Our investigations into the Philippine drug war found that police routinely kill drug suspects in cold blood and then cover up their crime by planting drugs and guns at the scene,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. “President Duterte’s role in these killings makes him ultimately responsible for the deaths of thousands.”
In that context, it makes sense that Duterte views Human Rights Watch as an entity to violently attack if it continues to get in Duterte’s way.
Despite these allegedly blatant human rights violations, President Trump took to praise Duterte’s efforts in a phone call in May of this year.“What a great job you are doing,” he told him.
Duterte is seen as somewhat of a hero among anti-imperialists because he has stood up to American hostility, even inviting the CIA to assassinate him. But the truth is that, by his own admission, Duterte is a cold-blooded killer who seems to believe all of his country’s problems can be solved through violence. He has said:
“In Davao [when Duterte was mayor] I used to do it [kill] personally. Just to show to the guys [police] that if I can do it why can’t you.
“And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also. I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill,” he also said.
Perhaps Duterte’s policies are managing to take some dangerous drug-cartel criminals off the streets, but what are we to make of the people whose murders are being justified as a result of authorities planting drugs on them? What should we make of the current poverty issue, which is clearly not being dealt with or addressed?
Very few countries would brag about killing 32 people in one night, and in light of this, it is no surprise that political opponents have attempted to bring Duterte to the international criminal court for his alleged crimes against humanity.