When Rodrigo Duterte ran for president, he vowed to end corruption and the illegal drug trade that plagues the country.  During his 22 years as mayor of Davao, he built a reputation for blunt speaking and for supporting the extrajudicial killing of suspected criminals.  While crime rates fell dramatically, human rights groups estimate that more than 1,000 people were killed with no legal process.

Mr. Duterte’s election campaign was littered with obscenities and populist promises.  When Duterte made the eradication of crime the cornerstone of his campaign-pledging to kill “100,000 criminals”-he earned an emphatic victory, bagging 38% of the vote in a five-candidate race.  He won by a landslide and was sworn in at the end of June 2016.

When the new Philippine President, 71-year-old Rodrigo Duterte gave his first State of the Nation address, he vowed to destroy the country’s illegal drug trade by any means necessary. “We will not stop until the last drug lord … and the last pusher have surrendered or are put either behind bars or below the ground, if they so wish,” he said.  “This fight against drugs will continue to the last day of my term.” That day is six years away.

The death toll of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs continues to rise. More than 3,000 people have been killed by police and vigilantes since Duterte took office in late June.  According to the Philippine national police, 1,506 people had been killed in police operations as of Sept. 14, just over two months since Duterte took office.  The rest were likely killed by vigilantes who may have been inspired by Duterte’s words.  The authorities say they are investigating these deaths.

Duterte promised this bloodshed before his election, “All of you who are into drugs, I will really kill you,” he said.   While he was ­President-elect, Duterte offered medals and cash rewards for citizens who shot dealers dead. “Do your duty, and if in the process you kill 1,000 persons because you were doing your duty, I will protect you,” he told police officers on July 1, the day after his inauguration. “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful,” he was quoted as saying to another crowd that day.  Duterte also offered security officials bounties for the bodies of drug dealers, and has repeatedly pledged to protect police from prosecution over the killings.

Rightly fearing for their lives, Filipinos are surrendering in droves. More than 700,000 people have turned themselves in to the authorities for drug-related offenses since Duterte took office, according to police data. Rehabilitation is an option for only a few thousand since there are few government-approved centers.  The only other options are already over-crowded prisons or graves.

While a poll conducted by Philippine research firm Pulse Asia showed that an astonishing 91% of Filipinos had a “high degree of trust” in Duterte, others are appalled by these actions.  In June two U.N. representatives condemned Duterte’s “incitement to violence,” not only against drug dealers and criminals but also against journalists.  The crackdown has drawn severe criticism from the United States, the European Union parliament and the United Nations over what they say are extrajudicial killings.

 

 

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