More than 7,000 people have been murdered since Rodrigo Duterte took the helm as president of the Philippines last 30 June, and the government is paying bounties for each body.
And the killers are cops and vigilantes, eager to capture some of that wealth for themselves.
The slain are alleged drug dealers as well as folks who merely used drugs, but if they were, we’ll never know, since the rewards are paid only for killings, not captures.
Duterte is no stranger to murder. He’s boasted about it, telling this to an audience of business owners last month:
“In Davao [where he served as mayor] I used to do it personally. Just to show to the guys [police officers] that if I can do it, why can’t you. And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also. I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill.”
And back in September, when then-President Barack Obama dared to criticize Duterte’s bloody vigilantism, here’s how Duterte responded prior to a meeting with Obama and other regional leaders, via Agence France Presse:
“If you are poor you are killed”: Extrajudicial Executions in the Philippines’ “War on Drugs,” a devasting new report from Amnesty International, provides a look at both the killers and some of their victims, and it’s truly sobering.
From the organization’s announcement of the report some detail about the bounties and the killers:
Incited by the rhetoric of President Rodrigo Duterte, the police, paid killers on their payroll, and unknown armed individuals have slain more than a thousand people a month under the guise of a national campaign to eradicate drugs. Since President Rodrigo Duterte came to office seven months ago, there have been more than 7,000 drug-related killings, with the police directly killing at least 2,500 alleged drug offenders.
Amnesty International’s investigation, documents in detail 33 cases that involved the killings of 59 people. Researchers interviewed 110 people across the Philippines’ three main geographical divisions, detailing extrajudicial executions in 20 cities across the archipelago. The organisation also examined documents, including police reports.
The police killings are driven by pressures from the top, including an order to “neutralize” alleged drug offenders, as well as financial incentives they have created an informal economy of death, the report details.
Speaking to Amnesty International, a police officer with the rank of Senior Police Officer 1, who has served in the force for a decade and conducts operations as part of an anti-illegal drugs unit in Metro Manila, described how the police are paid per “encounter” the term used to falsely present extrajudicial executions as legitimate operations.
“We always get paid by the encounter…The amount ranges from 8,000 pesos (US $161) to 15,000 pesos (US $302)… That amount is per head. So if the operation is against four people, that’s 32,000 pesos (US $644)… We’re paid in cash, secretly, by headquarters…There’s no incentive for arresting. We’re not paid anything.”
The chilling incentive to kill people rather than arrest them was underscored by the Senior Police Officer, who added: “It never happens that there’s a shootout and no one is killed.”
The experienced frontline police officer told Amnesty International that some police have established a racket with funeral homes, who reward them for each dead body sent their way. Witnesses told Amnesty International that the police also enrich themselves by stealing from the victims’ homes, including objects of sentimental value.
The police are behaving like the criminal underworld that they are supposed to be enforcing the law against, by carrying out extrajudicial executions disguised as unknown killers and “contracting out” killings.
More than 4,100 of the drug-related killings in the Philippines over the past six months have been carried out by unknown armed individuals. “Riding in tandem”, as the phenomenon is known locally, two motorcycle-borne people arrive, shoot their targets dead, and speed away.
Two paid killers told Amnesty International that they take orders from a police officer who pays them 5,000 pesos (US $100) for each drug user killed and 10,000 to 15,000 pesos (US $200-300) for each “drug pusher” killed. Before Duterte took power, the paid killers said, they had two “jobs” a month. Now, they have three or four a week.
The targets often come from unverified lists of people suspected to use or sell drugs drawn up by local government officials. Regardless of how long ago someone may have taken drugs, or how little they used or sold, they can find their names irrevocably added to the lists.
In other cases, their names could be added arbitrarily, because of a vendetta or because there are incentives to kill greater numbers of people deemed drug users and sellers.