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100 days of carnage

ONE hundred days after Rodrigo Duterte became president of the Philippines, a wave of unlawful killings has already claimed more than 3,000 lives, shattering progress on human rights in the country.

Rodrigo Duterte’s first 100 days as president has been marked by state-sanctioned violence on a truly shocking scale. His brutal crackdown on those allegedly involved in drug crimes has led to carnage on the streets and the obliteration of key human rights, including the right to life and to due process.

Since he was elected President Duterte has actively created a climate where anyone can kill, or be killed, in the name of the “war on drugs.” This mass killing must end immediately and all those responsible, at all levels of command, must be brought to justice.

President Duterte has promised to kill tens of thousands–and on one occasion millions–of people involved in the drugs trade. He has actively encouraged the killing of drug addicts themselves, as well as offering huge bounties to those who turn in drug lords, dead or alive. The ensuing bloodshed has affected bystanders as well as alleged criminals, including a five-year-old girl who was shot to death by two men on motorbikes and many others killed in cases of “mistaken identity.” Many of the killings have been carried out by unknown assailants and there are credible reports of police complicity in these deaths.

Amnesty International is calling for a Senate inquiry into extrajudicial killings, suspended on Oct. 3, to continue, and for independent, impartial and transparent investigations–free from the influence of the police–into all killings which have taken place since June 30.

Amnesty International has repeatedly warned that President Duterte’s calls have given police, vigilante groups and the general population a free reign to kill with impunity. He has issued and publicized “kill lists”–names of people allegedly associated with using or trading drugs–and suggested that murder by police or civilian actors will go unpunished.

These lists name officials including judges, members of Congress, police and military officers, as being involved in the drugs trade, often without evidence. Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the lives of all the people on these lists are in immediate danger.

The Philippine authorities have a duty to protect people, not expose them as targets. Recent reports that special teams of police are undertaking extrajudicial executions of those suspected of using or selling drugs is deeply alarming. Justice will never be achieved by death squads.

We are calling on the Philippines authorities to step back from the brink. End all unlawful killings and all incitement to violence and hatred. If President Duterte is really serious about tackling crime he should address its root causes, like widespread poverty and unemployment.

Philippine Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa told senators that as of Sept. 20, over 1,500 people had been killed in police operations against illegal drugs, while there were over 2,000 murders by unknown assailants that are under investigation. The total number of killings is now suspected to be well over 3,500–at least 33 a day since Rodrigo Duterte came to power.

President Duterte has alleged that the Philippines is becoming a “narco-state” in order to justify the so-called war on drugs. There is little evidence to show this is true. The Philippines has a low prevalence rate of drug users, compared to the global average, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). UNODC Crime has found that counter-narcotic operations based on the use of force heighten the associated risks and harms of using drugs, and increase the levels of violence, human rights violations and abuses, without decreasing the incidence of drug use. –Rafendi Djamin, director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific at Amnesty International


More Views

SOME views on the first 100 days of the Duterte administration:

  1. War on crimes/drugs: The relentless campaign, particularly against illegal drugs,  is a welcome action considering the magnitude of this public menace, which apparently was taken for granted, if not neglected, by the previous administration. However, the now unabated summary killings allegedly perpetrated by rogue police officers, vigilantes and by members of crime syndicates must also be denounced and should be thoroughly investigated as these may in the end undermine the aggressive campaign being waged by the present administration. There must be no compromise with the already established rules of engagements, due process of law and human rights of alleged suspects.
  2. Foreign affairs:  Giving life, spirit and credence to the constitutional edict of pursuing an independent foreign policy, with the interest of the Filipino people and the nation as the primordial considerations. For the longest time, the Philippines has always been perceived, nay, even treated as a surrogate or vassal state and not as an ally  of  the US,  especially in terms of its foreign policy directions. That our past leaders have allowed such treatment  is our country’s grave misfortune. But, this major foreign policy tectonic shift will restore the rightful equal place of the Philippines in the community of nations.
  3. Peace process: The focus on addressing the historical and root causes of the armed conflict in the country is  a welcome major change in the peace policy of the present administration.  It is a departure from the purely capitulation and surrender mindset of the previous administrations.  Now is the opportune time to talk peace since there is a deep reserve of goodwill, seriousness and sincerity from both the government and the revolutionary groups.
  4. Economy: No major change yet.   The policy directions so far are mere variations of past neo-liberal economic programs that prescribe more privatizations, commercialization and deregulation.
  5. Traffic and Transportation: Most of the transportation problems left by the previous Aquino administration continue to bedevil the hapless public.

As it was before, so it is now. Traffic is still the scourge of residents living in metropolitan areas, particularly in Manila, Cebu and Davao. Unless the still growing number of vehicles in major thoroughfares is regulated and a shift to affordable and efficient mass transport is made, the traffic situation will only get worse, instead of being remedied.

The unbridled importation and registration of new private cars–due to the strong lobby and influence of foreign car manufacturing firms and local dealers–should also be curtailed. Again, a shift to a mass transit system  is a must. However, this should not be used as an excuse for the unwarranted and unjust phase-out of public utility jeepneys, which provide livelihood to thousands of drivers.

In the meantime, instead of giving the public easy and convenient access to the proposed MRT-LRT common station,  the Department of Transportation (DOTr) approved instead a compromise that cater only to the competing interests of big businesses, leaving again the commuters at the losing end. –Carlos Isagani Zarate, representative, Bayan Muna


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