Philippines: Rodrigo Duterte’s Campaign of Terror


August 28, 2016

Rodrigo Duterte’s Campaign of Terror

by

Rodrigo Duterte, the new President of the Philippines, is a liberal’s worst nightmare. In his campaign, Duterte, a former mayor and prosecutor, promised to cleanse the country of drug users and dealers by extrajudicial means. Since his inauguration, on June 30, he has been following through with a vengeance. In that time, more than eighteen hundred people have been killed—drug dealers, drug users, and in several cases people who happened to be nearby. The youngest was five years old.

Image result for Rodrigo Duterte

“My mouth has no due process,’’ Duterte said in a nationally televised speech on August 7th, in which he named judges, mayors, police, and military officials whom he claimed were involved in the drug trade. The Philippines has the highest abuse rate in East Asia for methamphetamines, known locally as shabu. Duterte has warned drug peddlers to surrender themselves or face summary execution. “My order is shoot to kill you,” he said on August 6th. “I don’t care about human rights, you’d better believe me.”

Who wouldn’t believe him? During hearings before the Philippine senate on Monday, the national police chief, Donald Dela Rosa, said that, since Duterte’s inauguration, seven hundred and twelve people allegedly involved with drugs have been killed by police, and another thousand and sixty-seven by presumed vigilantes. Some six hundred thousand, the police chief said, had turned themselves in.

The particulars are harrowing. At hearings, relatives of the victims, wearing sunglasses and scarves to disguise their identities, testified about low-level drug users being dragged out of their homes and shot at close range. The two-year-old daughter of one suspected user was stripped and subjected to an anal exam to see if she was being used to conceal drugs.

Who wouldn’t believe him? During hearings before the Philippine senate on Monday, the national police chief, Donald Dela Rosa, said that, since Duterte’s inauguration, seven hundred and twelve people allegedly involved with drugs have been killed by police, and another thousand and sixty-seven by presumed vigilantes. Some six hundred thousand, the Police Chief said, had turned themselves in.

The particulars are harrowing. At hearings, relatives of the victims, wearing sunglasses and scarves to disguise their identities, testified about low-level drug users being dragged out of their homes and shot at close range. The two-year-old daughter of one suspected user was stripped and subjected to an anal exam to see if she was being used to conceal drugs.

Since Monday, the casualties have mounted. On Tuesday, a five-year-old named Danica Garcia was killed while eating lunch when gunmen fired into her family’s house. They were targeting her grandfather. On Wednesday, Rogelio Bato, a lawyer representing a suspected drug trafficker, was shot in his car, along with a teen-age girl who was in the passenger seat.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer has been publishing regular updates on what it calls “the kill list”:

July 31, 2016. 1:10 a.m. | Unidentified drug suspect #118 | Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila | Found dead, with his hands and legs were tied using a nylon cord, a plastic strap and packaging tape and his face wrapped with a towel and duct tape; on his body was a sign saying, “Holdaper ako, Pusher pa.”

July 6, 2016. Alma Santos, on the municipal list of suspected drug pushers | Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija | Found dead in a canal, blinded and hogtied.

July 5, 2016. Mirasol Lavapie-Ramos, wife of man in police custody for a drug charge | Talavera town, Nueva Ecija | Killed by an unknown hitman who chased her.

Many of the killings appear to have been carried out by hit squads. Similar teams were blamed for killings of suspected criminals in Davao, the southern city where Duterte was mayor for twenty-two years. Back in 2009, Human Rights Watch investigated how the death squads operated. According to its report, “The assailants usually arrive in twos or threes on a motorcycle without a license plate. They wear baseball caps and buttoned shirts or jackets, apparently to conceal their weapons underneath.’’

It is almost impossible to write about Duterte without making comparisons to a certain American Presidential candidate. Duterte, a trash-talking septuagenarian, cheerfully disparages women, international institutions, and even Pope Francis. He has a cavalier attitude toward due process, human rights, and the use of physical violence to achieve political ends. He is an unapologetic womanizer. During one campaign rally, he mimicked a stroke victim. When he is questioned about a grossly inappropriate statement, he sometimes claims he was “just joking.”

Duterte does not take criticism lightly. “I will have to destroy her in public,’’ he said of Leila de Lima, a senator and the former secretary of justice, who in the hearings this week accused him of disregard for human life. He has accused her of having an extramarital affair with her driver, whom he said was linked to drugs. After the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a statement, on August 18th, saying that Duterte’s war on drugs amounted to “incitement to violence and killing, a crime under international law,’’ he threatened to withdraw the Philippines from the U.N. and start a new global organization with China. “Maybe we’ll just have to decide to separate from the United Nations. If you’re that rude, son of a bitch, we’ll just leave you,” he said. A week earlier, he refused to apologize for calling the U.S. Ambassador to Manila “gay” and “the son of a whore.’’

There are obvious parallels, too, between Duterte’s campaign earlier this year and the current U.S. Presidential race. On the stump, Duterte played to fear, claiming that drugs and crime were turning the country into a “narco state.’’ He belittled his strongest opponent, Mar Roxas, a former investment banker, educated at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, as part of an effete, corrupt establishment. Roxas was the designated successor of the popular outgoing President, Benigno Aquino III, who could boast of five years of strong economic growth that had helped the Philippines to shed its reputation as the “sick man of Asia.”

But Duterte was always a more serious candidate than Trump. “We do ourselves a disservice if we take his rhetorical excesses that are very similar to Trump and then underestimate him as being a buffoon,’’ John Gershman, a professor at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Administration and a founder of the New York Southeast Asia Network, told me. “This is a man who has extensive political experience. He was a former prosecutor, which gives him some credibility. He was reëlected multiple times in Davao and was respected by both the business community and the left.’’

During the campaign, Duterte was popular with educated voters, the middle class, and the many Philippine citizens working overseas. He also had the support of Muslims, who make up about five per cent of the population. Cristina Palabay, the secretary general of Karapatan, a human-rights organization in the Philippines, said that the middle classes felt that a corrupt justice system and police force had failed to combat the drug trade. “Democratic values and rule of law are all but words in this country,’’ she told me.

In the final days of the campaign, Aquino became more alarmed about Duterte, telling voters that “we should remember how Hitler came to power.’’ But Duterte’s fear tactics worked. He drew thirty-nine per cent of the vote, to Roxas’s twenty-three per cent, and popular support for him remains robust. In a poll released on July 20th by Pulse Asia Research, ninety-one per cent of Filipinos said that they trusted Duterte, while the more authoritative Social Weather Stations found that sixty-three per cent expected him to fulfill his campaign promises. “There seems to be a level of acceptance on how Duterte’s war on drugs is being conducted,’’ Palabay said.

Duterte’s election and his pitiless war against drugs are terrifying at a time when political scientists warn that democracy is in retreat. “Democracy itself seems to have lost its appeal,’’ Larry Diamond, a political sociologist at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, writes in the current issue of Foreign Affairs. “Many emerging democracies have failed to meet their citizens’ hopes for freedom, security, and economic growth, just as the world’s established democracies, including the United States, have grown increasingly dysfunctional.” He cites Kenya, Russia, Thailand, and Turkey. In its annual survey, “Freedom in the World,” the U.S. advocacy group Freedom House reported that the number of countries that it considers democracies has been declining since 2005, and that civil liberties and political rights have contracted in seventy-two countries, and improved in only forty-three.

The report went to press before Duterte’s election, but next year it is likely that the Philippines will appear as Exhibit A.

5 thoughts on “Philippines: Rodrigo Duterte’s Campaign of Terror

  1. Philippine’s president Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug wars, against terrors and kidnapping like the Abu Sayyaf, etc put the matters right!
    https://right-waystan.blogspot.my/2016/04/job-for-new-philippine-new-head-stop.html

    What human rights ;the author Barbara Demick talking about?
    Human rights stance ‘serves its own interests’ as political tools to gain own interests. Your right is not my right.
    https://right-waystan.blogspot.my/2016/03/us-human-rights-stance-serves-its-own.html

  2. Just to share this –

    August 16, 2016 – President Rodrigo Duterte will travel to Malaysia to meet Prime Minister Najib Razak this August, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said on Tuesday.

    “Prime Minister Razak said he will welcome President Duterte’s visit very soon in Malaysia.

    There has been no date agreed but this is going to be worked out by the governments, by [Department of Foreign Affairs] Sec. Jun Yasay and the Office of the President,” he said at a news conference after his arrival from Malaysia at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City.

    Dureza was in Malaysia over the weekend for the relaunching of the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

    http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/577856/news/nation/duterte-to-visit-malaysia-this-august-dureza#sthash.T0JlNjew.dpuf

  3. Poor Pinoys.. Inquisition time eh.
    The have never known what human rights actually mean – just like wrongways..

    Human rights can be construed in many ways:
    1. The Western or Developed world consider it as liberal or the rights of the individual over and against the state.
    2. In the 2/3rds world of Communism (Marx, Lenin and Mao) from which Wrongways sprung from, translates it to collective rights or relates to society as a whole. Most times it’s dictatorial and political to get rid of detractors.
    3. In the Emerging world, it is the right to self determination and to one’s own community.

    Human Rights is closely linked to Human Dignity, which requires basic human rights to realize it’s actualization. Although Rights must be taken contextually, nowhere is it said that the Right to Life is secondary to anything else.

    Duterte is a monster and so are his supporters, if they consider 5 year old collateral damage is acceptable. I presume it is easier to kill than to de-corrupt the system including the judiciary. Politically more expedient ya, like all autocrats and plutocrats suffering from ‘The God Syndrome’?

  4. It’s the particular socio-politico-economic circumstances in contemporary Philippines that produced a Duterte.

    Our own produced Najib.

    Duterte is taking the lazy way out of course.

    In a way it is for the Pinoys themselves to judge him. At least their electoral processes seem robust enough to put him into office against other richer more powerful opponents. So he may be voted out in a few years time if the people sees fit.

    But meanwhile some innocent people may be killed, either through accident, mistake or opportunistic personal revenge. The Pinoys, who are not related to the drug trade, may reason that there is really no cure for a serious illness without some really strong medicine.

    The language used by people from the UN suggest “crime against humanity”, but I wouldn’t compare him to Hitler.

    The bigger question is does Duterte know when to stop or has it become an unstoppable run-away death train.

    My hope is meanwhile he could lift up the economy so that the judges, police, civil servants get better salaries, eradicate corruption so that more money goes to social infrastructure development, social welfare, housing, so that the root causes of the problem is eased to an extent that the drug problem could be controlled and managed.

    This is the only way to cure the illness while containing the symptoms.

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