Duterte’s War on Drugs
By Deandra Jilani
Duterte was the Mayor of the Philippine city of Davao for 22 years serving seven terms. His success was heavily supported by his support for the extrajudicial killings of drugs users, dealers, and other criminals. In speeches Duterte was seen to have used very harsh words meant to display his power and warn participants of the drug trade that it would not be going on for much longer and that his team of vigilante groups will once and for all put an end to these crimes no matter the cost.
Though these illegal acts may have left a bad taste in some people’s mouths, a majority of people of the Philippines seemed to be pleased that their new President was making a move to make the Philippines a safer and hopefully in time drug free country. Though the amount of crime has decreased significantly, it has come with a tremendous cost. Thousands of people have been killed during the War on Drugs (its local name), teenagers included. These extrajudicial killings have torn families apart, destroyed relationships, and ruined lives.
Where did it all begin?
After taking over as Mayor of Davao, following the collapse of Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship, crime was at an all time high. Duterte did his best to crackdown on specifically drug related crimes on the island. To do so, Duterte gave orders to his very first death squad in the city of Davao, on the southern island of Mindanao. The “Davao Death Squad” (still active today) stormed villages and residences hunting for anyone suspected of handling drugs. They killed so many and after becoming President, Duterte continued these harsh policies. So, was is all worth it?
When Duterte took office in June of 2016, he launched his War on Drugs. A campaign to kill and dispose of all the alleged drug dealers and users across the Philippines in order to help expand the economy.
What is the cost?
As of March 2017, over 14,000 people have been killed and over 40,000 arrested in relation to drug usage, dealing and suspicion of possession. In recent months, extrajudicial killings have reached an extreme, with the highest death toll being approximately 32 people in just one day. The campaign has received a considerable amount of international criticism due to the large number of deaths that have taken place after the war began. It is being looked at as being an extreme violation of Human Rights.
What is being done?
Even though Human Rights Organizations have spoken out against the deadly campaign, they have had no success in stopping it. Duterte has done a good job at making sure that the legislature had no major oversight over the war to avoid major conflict. Former Secretary of Justice, Leila de Lima has spoken out against the major human rights violations caused by the war. De Lima has held hearings against the conflict and had done her best to put it to an end to it, though Duterte would not go down without fight.
President Duterte has made quite a few accusations against De Lima, the worst being her having an affair with a driver who was caught up in the drug trade. He claimed to have sufficient evidence to support his claim which eventually got her removed from her position as Secretary of Justice. Other Filipino political figures have toned down their efforts to end the campaign in hopes of still being able to keep status and occupation.
Reaction from the Philippines
I recently made a trip to the Philippines where the people that I met and spoke to seemed to be extremely happy with their new President’s efforts to cut down on crime in the country and I wasn’t surprised. After coming into office, Duterte has seen a huge surge in his supporters with his approval rating being a surprising 86%. For the working class of the Philippines, Duterte has been a huge help. After taking office, not only has he increased salaries, but he has made the Philippines one of the rising superpowers of Southeast Asia.
How is the War Succeeding?
The Philippines’ is presumed to have a corrupt judicial system which completely works in favour of Duterte’s War on Drugs. Since the war began over a year ago, Duterte has been able to keep the war under Filippino judiciaries radars to avoid major conflict. Thanks to the corrupt system, there is absolutely no evidence stating that the people being killed during the war were in fact participants of the illegal drug trade.
What is happening now?
As of October 2017, Rodrigo Duterte has officially pulled police from participating in the Philippine Drug War (War on Drugs). Though the campaign is said to have taken about 3,900 lives, Human Rights Organizations argue that the bloody campaign has claimed the lives hundreds of thousands more.
Thanks to the suspension of the war, many families have been put at ease, not having to worry about their homes being raided at any time of the day.
But why suspend a somewhat successful campaign all of a sudden?
There are many reasons for the suspension of the campaign, the most significant being the brutal killings of three teenagers that outraged citizens all over the world. The suspension also came just a few weeks before the Philippines was set to face a huge amount of international scrutiny at the ASEAN Economic Summit from November 10th to 11th that they hosted. Also, another huge cause the was the threat from the European Union to have the Philippines removed from the United Nations after the drug killings were condemned. Finally, Duterte’s approval rating has been beginning to sink, seeing a near 44% drop since the campaign began increasing in brutality.
There is no saying if there are any secret government operations still going on in order to suppress the drug dealing population, but has Duterte’s somewhat radical efforts done much to help make the Philippines a drug free country or will it just go back to the way it was now that it is over?