TRUE OPINION: The Philippines has seen thousands of people murdered in extra judicial and vigilante style killings since 2016 following the election of president Rodrigo Duterte. Just what will it take for the world to act, asks Tim Kent.
Since the Philippines president, Rodrigo Duterte, gained office in 2016 and immediately declared an open-ended war on drugs it is estimated by some activists that perhaps over 25,000 people have been killed.
In his declaration of a war against drugs, Duterte gave law enforcement and even civilians a license to shoot and murder on sight anyone that was even remotely suspected of drug dealing, or usually just drug use. Even official figures from Duterte’s government show about 7,000 have been killed.
The ‘shoot first, don’t even bother asking questions later’ routine has resulted in disturbing allegations that individuals simply acting strangely or even whom just look skinny or underweight have been targeted and killed; those signifiers apparently being sufficient rationale to murder them on sight.
At this point it is believed that the police have carried most of these killings but exact figures to support this are not available.
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Many of the operations undertaken by the police seem to be stripped of the legal regulatory mechanisms of evidence gathering, arrest and due process of trial proceedings. And that’s saying it lightly. This essentially opens a door for a version of the death squads prevalent in the recent past in places like Venezuela and El Salvador where people were summarily executed – in particular street children, and thus cleaning the streets of perceived undesirables and the vulnerable.
Duterte has provided a free pass for extra judicial and vigilante style killings. It is a gross and brutal violation of human rights. Arguably, it could be best described as State sanctioned genocide under the full blessing of the head of state of the Philippines.
The increasingly impotent UN have issued their latest and deepest concerns, in July launching a long-called for “investigation”. Meanwhile, the vice-president of the Philippines, Leni Robredo, has this month called on Duterte to allow the UN to investigate, saying the deadly operation has been a mass failure and crippled the nation’s image across the world.
It would not be unreasonable to assume that many of the at least 7,000 dead or more victims were indeed innocent, and have essentially been murdered in cold blood at the hands of psychopaths unfettered by any legal accountability whatsoever.
This horrific state of affairs has incurred worldwide condemnation but that’s where it stops. With a few words and the UN waving their finger of admonishment, and that’s it folks. The US, UK and Australia of course have been politically impotent in all of this and it barely gets a mention in the press. Sadly, is a situation that is not going to change anytime soon.
Duterte’s war on drugs is much less about drugs than it is an exercise in sadistic, quasi-fascist leadership. It is believed that Duterte’s actions and discourse fit Gregory Stanton’s stages and criteria for genocide, which are Symbolism, Dehumanisation, Organisation, Polarization, Preparation, Extermination and Denial.
Using the slogan “War On Drugs” first popularised by the administration of US president Richard Nixon, it offers an emotional disclaimer and euphamism for his actions and that of others. It is rationalised out as an amnesty instead of what amounts to mass murder on a large scale. Duterte’s actions are seen as empathic and an honorable attempt at ridding the streets of evil drug dealers and their two-bit, no good customers and are symbolic of strong leadership. But within that there is a concealment of fear among the population as it also sends out a very deadly message that he means business. But it is state sanctioned genocide nothing more nothing less,
As has been seen already, despite the thousands killed over the past three years there has been barely a dent in the drug trade in the Philippines. Duterte’s war on drugs is nothing more than an exercise in corruption and murder at will.
If Duterte continues to get his way, the Philippines will carry on accelerating towards claiming the mantle of the murder capital of the world. All whilst the UN and the world sits and watches. It cannot be any more disturbing than that.