The number of suspected drug users, dealers and bosses being killed by police and unidentified armed groups in the Philippines has been increasing almost day by day ever since newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte took office at the end of June after winning election this May. Concerned human rights watchdogs can no longer stand for the hundreds of reported dead and have begun speaking out.
TIME reports that about 500 civil-society and human-rights groups have put their signatures to several joint letters addressed to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Narcotics Control Board, Human Rights Watch and other relevant agencies regarding President Duterte and his “war” to eradicate drugs and those dealing in them, as part of efforts to stamp out crime and corruption in the country. But many observers are starting to feel that his administration’s methods are starting to go into overkill.
Ann Fordham, executive director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, has called on the UN and its relevant drug-control bodies to censure the drug-related killings occurring in the Philippines.
As she tells The Guardian, “This senseless killing cannot be justified as a drug control measure. Their silence is unacceptable, while people are being killed on the streets day after day.”
Duterte has come under fire from rights groups, lawyers and the country’s religious institutions after he publicly urged civilians to participate in the anti-drug efforts by personally shooting and killing suspected “pushers” in their own neighborhoods, especially if these people attempt to fight back or resist arrest through violent means. In June before assuming office, he gave such a speech to the amount of inciting Filipino citizens to “Call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun — you have my support. You can kill him. Shoot him and I’ll give you a medal.”
Exact figures of how many people suspected to be involved in drugs have been killed “resisting arrest” or “attempting to escape custody” vary, from approximately 500 to 700 due to extrajudicial kills not always being reported at once. Some 2,700 others have been arrested related to illegal drug activity, many turning themselves in to authorities, in their own words, to avoid being shot dead in a confrontation.
Not everyone in the Duterte government is happy though. Senator Leila de Lima, former Secretary of Justice and Commission on Human Rights chair from the previous two administrations, has called out Duterte’s measures for flagrantly flouting due process and human rights, as well as encouraging vigilante justice. The President himself remains unmoved by criticisms from relatives of slain suspects, instead using the deaths of their family members as a stern warning to other drug suspects of their possible fate.
Photo Credit to kami.com.ph