The Philippines, Asia/Pacific
The Philippine War on Drugs refers to the violence inflicted upon suspected drug affiliates by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. Duterte has enforced a hard stance on eradication over rehabilitation when dealing with the crisis. Since his inauguration in June 2016, thousands of people have been killed by police in drug raids, and by unnamed vigilante killers who are rumoured to be executing drug users on behalf of the President. As a result, the war on drugs in the Philippines has made the country the fourth most dangerous in the world, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.
The Philippine National Police have been accused of staging murders by planting drugs and weapons on their victims. While drug users are given the option of registering with authorities in exchange for safety, many of these registered users have still lost their lives due to police brutality. These government-led attacks have impacted children and newborns, especially within poverty-stricken areas. The areas that have been most highly targeted are Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and the National Capital Region.
The war on drugs has been met with international condemnation by organizations like the United Nations and various human rights groups. Duterte’s actions have been described as “crimes against humanity” and a recent UN report called for an “independent, impartial, credible investigation into all allegations of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.” In response, Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the International Criminal Court and has repeatedly rejected the findings from human rights investigations while intensifying his crackdown, claiming that the drug problem has “worsened.” Meanwhile, the death toll continues to climb, and many of the victims and their families have yet to receive justice.
Population: 106.7 million
Deaths: The government officially records 8,663 deaths, but news organizations and human rights groups claim the death toll is over 12,000.
Surrendered drug users: 1.3 million
Drug related arrests:
- High valued arrests: 8,185
- Drug suspects arrested: 220,728
Uninvestigated homicides: more than 16,000 estimated
Drug users in the Philippines: estimated between 1.8 to 4 million
Seized methamphetamine: 40.39 billion pesos (US$796m) seized by police
The Key Actors
Timeline of the crisis
Rodrigo Duterte of the The Partido Demokratiko Pilipino political party was elected President after serving several terms as the Mayor of Davao City.
Duterte urged the Communist Rebels (New People’s Army) and civilians to kill drug lords and drug users.
The Philippine National Police announced that they have killed 30 people in drug raids in the three days since Duterte became president.
Communist Rebels gave their New People’s Army permission to fight in the Drug War alongside Duterte’s forces.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, The Philippines’ largest Islamic rebel group, announced they were open to siding with the government and participating in the drug war.
The Communist Party removes their support for Duterte’s Drug war, citing their concerns of extrajudicial killings.
Duterte threatened to leave the UN after their human rights experts asked him to stop giving vigilantes permission to kill drug suspects on his behalf.
The U.S. State Department expressed concern over Duterte meeting his human rights obligations through his violent approach to the drug war.
Following the September 2 bombing in Davao City that left 14 dead, Duterte declared a state of emergency over the whole country. Duterte declared there would be “ensured coordinated efforts” between the government, police, and military against terrorism and drugs.
A Senior PNP Police Officer told The Guardian he is part of a special operative squad responsible for assassinating people on Duterte’s hit list. The unnamed officer said they either dump the bodies, or label them as “drug lord” or “pusher” to deter investigations into the deaths. He claims he killed 87 people since the beginning of Duterte’s presidency.
Duterte revealed his watch list of people participating in the Filipino drug industry, which includes thousands of police officers, mayors, and officials.
The U.S. halted the sale of 2,600 rifles to the PNP due to human rights concerns.
The UN Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights released a report stating there was no legitimate proof that the Filipino Government was conducting extrajudicial executions to eradicate their drug problem.
Under pressure from human rights groups, Duterte withdrew the police from the drug war, leaving operations to the Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency with support from The Armed Forces of the Philippines (the military).
Thousands gathered in Manila to protest for and against Duterte’s drug war on the 31st anniversary of the Philippines pro-democracy movement.
Duterte claimed he needs more men and brought some PNP officers back into the drug campaign.
A Reuters investigation revealed police have been intentionally rushing drug suspect victims who are already dead to hospital as an excuse to hide the bodies and tamper with the crime scene.
The mayor of Ozamiz City Reynaldo Parojinog, his wife, and 13 others were killed by police in an early morning raid of his home. Police claimed they had a search warrant and found drugs and excessive weaponry in the residence.
Bulacan police’s “one-time big-time” drug operation left 32 dead and 107 arrested. Among the fatalities was 17 year old Kian delos Santos. His death caused controversy as Police accounts did not match CCTV footage and witness statements of the incident. 19 year old Carl Angelo Arnaiz and their 14 year-old friend Reynaldo de Guzman were also killed. In response, Human Rights Watch repeated their call for a UN investigation, accusing the PNP of deliberately targeting children.
62 Caloocan Police Officers were fired in response to the youth killings. Philippine’s National Capital Region Police Director Oscar Albayalde ordered the department re-ordering to show they did not tolerate police crime.
Duterte admitted to stabbing someone to death as a teenager at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Vietnam to justify his administration’s violent approach to cracking down on drugs.
Duterte brought police back into the drug campaign, citing that drug crime is increasing without them.
The number of people killed in anti-drug operations nearly doubled from the previous month.
The UN Human Rights Council released a joint statement supported by 38 member states calling on the Philippines and President Duterte to stop the killings and abuses of the drug war.
Tanauan mayor Antioni Hall was assassinated during a flag raising ceremony. He was the 11th local government official to be killed during the drug war.
Families of drug war victims filed a second petition to the International Criminal Court calling for the indictment of President Duterte for alleged crimes against humanity committed during his drug war.
Senator Trillanes, an outspoken critic of President Duterte, was arrested on charges of rebellion.
Two bombs exploded near a Roman Catholic cathedral in the southern Philippine island of Jolo, which claimed the lives of 15 civilians and five soldiers and wounded 111 others. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Social Weather Station, a social research institution in the Philippines, released their survey findings that 82% of Filipinos were satisfied with Duterte’s drug war. However, 78% were worried that they, or someone they know, might be a victim of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances. Nevertheless, the National Police Chief of the Philippine, General Oscar Albayalde, questioned the validity of the survey, claiming that “It shouldn’t be surprising that 78 percent are afraid of getting killed. Who isn’t afraid to die, anyway?”
The Philippines formally withdrew from the International Criminal Court after the country’s highest court refused to overrule Duterte’s decision to do so.
President Duterte announced he would order the police and military to shoot dead anyone “who creates trouble” during COVID-19 lockdowns on the island of Luzon. “Do not intimidate the government. Do not challenge the government. You will lose,” he added.
After the Philippine seized 756kg of crystal methamphetamine, president Duterte issued a grave threat to drug dealers, “I will kill you,” he said. This occurred a day after the UN found “near impunity” in his drug war.
President Duterte signed the Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows for warrantless arrests and for suspects to be jailed without charge for weeks. While the law was intended to prevent and penalize terrorism, human rights groups worry it will be used by Duterte to attack political opponents and restrict free speech.
Duterte announced he wanted to reintroduce the death penalty for drug offenders during his State of the Nation Address.
In a televised interview, President Duterte said that he suspected extrajudicial killings may have occurred under his drug crackdown. He suggested that this was likely due to rivalry between syndicates or for stealing drug money. For years, Duterte’s critics and human rights groups have claimed that extrajudicial killings have taken place.
Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, stated there is “reasonable basis to believe” that crimes against humanity have
been committed during Duterte’s war on drugs. The resulting report listed murder, torture, and infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm.
In a speech before the UN Human Rights Council, Philippine Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra admits that police did not properly examine many weapons used in drug war killings, refuting usual police claims that drug suspects are usually killed after fighting back.
The Manila Standard has reported on May 25, 2021 that the Philippine national Police will collaborate with DOJ to investigate EJKs, illegal drug operations and other related cases. On Friday, Justice Secretary Menardo Gueverra and PNP Chief Gen.Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, discussed these ‘two areas of immediate concern,’ and Guevarra announced that the PNP will be signing an agreement for closer cooperation. ‘What is significant right now is that the DOJ has been given free access [to the 61 cases where clear liability was established], something that did not happen in previous years, thereby making our review rather difficult.’
On Friday, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia positively welcomed the announcement, saying that it ‘is significant in rebuilding confidence and trust in the institution and the government in general.’ She encouraged the PNP ‘to sustain this momentum of fostering a positive attitude towards human rights and translate these commitments into actual effects on the ground.’
Bulacan police director Col.Lawrence Cajipe announced that 7 drug suspects were killed in a police shootout and 53 drug suspects were arrested in sting operations in the towns of Pulilan, Bustos, Pandi, Obando, and Balagtas. During the string of separate operations in 21 towns and 3 cities beginning on May 28, 127 plastic sachets of shabu (crystal meth) were also recovered.
On 1 Jun 2021, Police Gen.Guillermo Eleazar stated that the Department of Justice (DOJ) cannot release all of the 61 cases as planned, and only 53 will be released. ‘Through our arrangement with the DOJ, only the resolved cases will be forwarded to them,’ he said. In a public address aired the night before, Duterte said that the drug war documents are not public documents, as they involve national security issues. Justice Sec.Menardo Guevana then acknowledged in response that the justice department will ‘play it by ear.’
Red-tagging in the Philippines is the practice of branding people, usually activists and dissenters, as members of the communist rebellion and associating them with the
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