Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office last month with a pledge to unleash a deadly crackdown on drug users and other miscreants—and he’s sure delivered.
These words are no joke. As AFP reports, police in the Philippines have reported killing more than 200 drug suspects—an average of 11 per day—since Duterte took office. Local media put the toll far higher—counting the numerous bullet-ridden bodies that have been found on streets across the nation, probable extra-judicial executions. The Philippines’ ABS-CBN TV network counts 544 deaths since election day (some six weeks before the inauguration).
The officially recorded deaths were all supposedly in self-defense, but this claim should be viewed with skepticism in light of Duterte’s campaign promise to issue “shoot-to-kill” orders against “criminals,” and open boast that his crackdown would cost tens of thousands of lives.
In another tirade just days before the State of the Nation speech, Duterte blasted his critics in human rights groups as “bleeding hearts.” In open defiance, he crowed: “I am not afraid of human rights [concerns]. I will not allow my country to go to the dogs.” He even added, “I will retire with the reputation of Idi Amin,”—a reference to the late genocidal dictator of Uganda, who is believed to have killed some 100,000.
It has to be said that Duterte is playing his cards deftly. Even with his law-and-order stance, he was support from the left—playing to populsim, and emphasizing his humble origins in a country traditionally dominated by an oligarchic elite. He even appointed a labor minister who is a former left-wing guerilla fighter, and has declared a unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA).
And at a time of tensions between the Philippines and China over contested waters, Duterte has turned to Beijing for drug war assisstance. Calling drugs “a common enemy of mankind,” the Chinese embassy in Manila said that the People’s Republic “has expressed explicitly to the new administration China’s willingness for effective cooperation in this regard, and would like to work out a specific plan of action with the Philippine side.” China, of course, has one of the world’s worst human rights records—especially where drugs are concerned.
photo: Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images