With Jordan Charles De Guzman
MANILA,Philippines – President Rodrigo R. Duterte, once just a presidential hopeful, ran on an anti-crime campaign, promising a safer and drug-free Philippines for everyone.
With this campaign line, as he did while he was mayor and now as the chief executive, President Duterte openly shared his thoughts on several occasions about his views and preferred style in dealing with criminals.
In 2015, then-candidate Duterte addressed drug pushers, corrupt government officials, and other criminals in a Christmas video. The video lasted for almost 30 seconds, with Duterte closing with the following statements in Filipino: “If you do not want to stop, and the violence still continues, this will be your last ‘Merry Christmas’”.
Earlier that year, Inquirer reported that when asked about his performance as the mayor of Davao City, Duterte said, ““We’re the ninth safest city, how do you think I did it? How did I reach that title among the world’s safest cities?” he said. “Kill them all (criminals).”
The candidate also promised to back cops that kills criminals in the line of duty. In a report by Philippine Star, Duterte vowed to “provide a lawyer” and give the cops “allowance”. “Every police who did something wrong… if at all, but duty connected or in the performance of duty, I back them up,” he further said.
A year forward, and 10 months since he took oath as the President of the Philippines, Duterte is still unfazed in his stance on dealing with criminals despite criticism from human rights groups and international organizations.
For example, in an event of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, Duterte told kids on April 4 that “right now, I am angry. I will kill people if they destroy our youth,” he said.
“You drug addicts, since you’ve been identified, you should avoid the streets and stay hidden in your houses because I will throw you in Manila Bay. I’ll make you food for the fish,” Duterte added. He was honored as the Chief Scout during the program.
A month before this, Duterte made other statements on criminals, this time about their humanity: “When you kill criminals, it is not a crime against humanity. The criminals have no humanity, goddamn it,” he said during the groundbreaking ceremony of the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway on March 2.
The statement was made in response to a Human Rights Watch report that discussed the possibility of Duterte’s drug war committing a crime against humanity.
Duterte’s Justice Secretary, Vitaliano Aguirre II, echoed this sentiment, as quoted by Star: “The criminals, the drug lords, drug pushers, they are not humanity. They are not humanity.”
The summary of the HRW report included the following paragraph:
“Since the inauguration of President Rodrigo Duterte on June 30, 2016, and his call for a “war on drugs,” Philippine National Police officers and unidentified “vigilantes” have killed over 7,000 people. The anti-drug campaign dubbed “Operation Double Barrel” has targeted suspected drug dealers and users ostensibly for arrest but in practice has been a campaign of extrajudicial execution in impoverished areas of Manila and other urban areas. Duterte’s outspoken endorsement of the campaign implicates him and other senior officials in possible incitement to violence, instigation of murder, and in command responsibility for crimes against humanity.”
The Philippine National Police, however, denied the 7,000 death toll raised by the report and mentioned by other personalities, including Vice-President Leni Robredo.
According to the PNP website, as of April 20, a total of 145 drug personalities were killed during police operations since the start of the “reloaded” version of Project Double Barrel, or the police’s campaign against illegal drugs, on March 1.
During the same period, 10,679 were arrested, and 85,580 responded to Oplan Tokhang, or the grassroots anti-drug campaign of the police. The new count did not include figures from the start of the drug war in July 2016. — RealTalk, May 3, 2017
Jean Louis Jiz de Ortega and Gene Paolo Gumagay contributed to this report.