The victims, slaughtered by the hundreds, are suspected drug dealers, and journalists have also been warned they may become the next targets of President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office 30 June.
And no one should’ve been surprised.
As Time reported Tuesday:
In a span of six weeks, the Philippines’ new President, Rodrigo Duterte, has made international headlines for the hundreds of suspects killed in his war on crime. Since he took office on June 30, an average of 13 people a day have been either assassinated in public by masked assailants, killed by police without further investigation, or found as unidentified bodies on the streets, often balled up in packing tape with signs saying variations of: “Don’t follow me, I’m a criminal.” Duterte’s supporters celebrate these killings as necessary comeuppance, while his critics condemn the violence as precarious violations of due process and human rights. Yet the President’s seemingly outrageous actions are merely part of the Philippines’ deeply entrenched culture of impunity. What is frightening is that so few people realize that yet.
President Duterte’s approval rating was recently a historic 91%, and he is seen by fans and foes alike as decisive and effective, promising sweeping reforms and bringing about the surrender of tens of thousands of drug users and self-confessed dealers before they can be killed. Yet Duterte has also vowed to pardon any police and military involved in the extrajudicial killings, while also pledging to pardon himself. He has ensconced his daughter and son as mayor and vice mayor of the city that he ruled for two decades, while also refusing to fully answer allegations about hidden wealth.
More alarmingly, in what seems an effort to systematically undermine the traditional democratic checks and balances to his authority, Duterte has threatened to shut down the legislature if it hinders his plans, invoked the specter of martial law when criticized by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and insulted concerned foreign ambassadors. He has chipped at the influence of the Catholic Church by emphasizing its corruption. And he has warned that members of the media are not protected from assassination: “The Constitution can no longer help you,” Duterte told reporters, “if you disrespect a person.”
And earlier this month, the New York Times reported, Duterte:
publicly accused scores of judges, mayors, lawmakers, military personnel and police officers of involvement with the illegal drug trade, giving them 24 hours to surrender for investigation or, he said, be “hunted” down.
Mr. Duterte rejected calls last week from international human rights groups to observe due process in the war he has declared on both sellers and users of illicit drugs, after a photograph of a drug user shot and killed by vigilantes made it to the front pages and became a symbol for the bloody antidrug campaign.
“I ordered the listing. I ordered the validation,” he said Sunday in a nationally televised speech at a naval base, referring to the roughly 150 people he mentioned by name. “I’m the one reading it, and I am the sole person responsible for these all.”
Al Jazeera reported remarks Duterte made shortly before his announcement:
Earlier on Saturday, Duterte had vowed to keep his “shoot-to-kill” order “until the last day of my term, if I’m still alive by then”.
“I don’t care about human rights, believe me,” he said, according to official transcripts released by the presidential palace.
About 800 people have been killed since Duterte won a landslide election in May, according to reports by the local press, which has been tracking reports of extra-judicial killings.
Before his assumption of the presidency, Duterte had been mayor Davao City, where under his watch he had encouraged vigilante groups, known as the Davao Death Squads, believed responsible for more than a 1,000 murders.
Duterte made no bones [or, rather he did, in Mafia parlance, declaring in 2009, “If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the innocent people of the city, for as long as I am the mayor, you are a legitimate target of assassination.”
And now he’s giving the finger to the United Nations
The latest development, reported by United Press International:
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened Sunday to leave the United Nations over criticism of his pursuit of drug dealers.
In his hometown of Davao City, where he spent two decades as mayor before becoming president in a landslide election in May, Duterte suggested the Philippines could align itself with China and African countries to form a more useful international body.
“Maybe we’ll just have to decide to separate from the United Nations. If you are that insulting, we should just leave. Take us out of your organization. You have done nothing anyway. When were you here last time? Nothing. Never. Except to criticize,” he told the Davao City audience.
Two U.N. human rights specialists last week called Duterte’s orders an “incitement to violence and killing, a crime under international law.” U.N. Secretary General; Ban Ki-moon and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime were critical of Duterte’s “apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms.”
Agence France Presse has more on the U.N.’s rebuke
The UN’s special rapporteur on summary executions, Agnes Callamard, last week said Duterte’s promise of immunity and bounties to security forces who killed drug suspects violated international law.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in June also strongly criticised Duterte, who during the election campaign promised to kill 100,000 people and dump so many bodies in Manila Bay that the fish would grow fat from feeding on them.
“I unequivocally condemn his apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms,” Ban said.
Duterte frequently peppers his public comments with swear words — he has also called Pope Francis and the US ambassador to Manila sons of whores — and days after his election win used typical language to criticise the UN.
“F**k you, UN, you can’t even solve the Middle East carnage… couldn’t even lift a finger in Africa,” he said then.
Duterte flips the rhetorical bird at Uncle Sam
The controversial president also made clear how he feels about human rights advice from the U.S.
The Philippine leader also attacked the US for more members of the public dying as a result of police violence.
“What do you think the Americans did to the black people there? Is that not rubbing off also? And (critics) say what?”
He also wondered whether UN officials were indeed threatening to jail him and repeated that he was ready to sacrifice his life and presidency for his country.
Duterte has developed a reputation for being very outspoken and even rude at times. Earlier in August, he called the US ambassador in the country “gay” and a “son of a bitch.”
Nobody should’ve been surprised
Duterte made his post-election plans clear in a remarkable speech to some of the nation’s leading capitalists back in April while still on campaign.
From Politiko, a Philippine political website — and note that final paragraph:
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has a simple plan in carrying out extra-judicial plan to kill criminals and drugs lords if he takes over as president: sign 1,000 pardons a day.
In a profanity-laced speech before the Makati Business Club on 27 April 2016, Duterte said he would exploit to the hilt a Constitutional provision which allowed the President to grant absolute or conditional pardon or amnesty with the concurrence of Congress.
“I will tell (those who carry out his orders to kill without hesitation) to get a paper, it will be pre-signed and just put your name and you’re pardoned. I don’t mind giving 1,000 pardons a day. The Constitution did not say anything about limiting it to 5 or 10,” said Duterte whose simplistic proposal drew a loud applause and laughter from the audience.
He said he would ask all police and military who carried out his orders to kill any criminal or drug lord without any hesitation to just point to him as the one who gave the order.
“I will tell every military and police to go out, hunt them, arrest them, and if they offer violent resistance, do not hesitate to kill them. If you have a gun, use it and that will solve every crime,” said Duterte.
Duterte planned to absolve of all these crimes by granting himself an absolute pardon before he would step down from power in 2022.
To sum up his approach to office, we turn to that venerable political sage Alfred E. Newman: “What, me worry?” Or maybe it’s found in the words of the high school bully we remember all too well, who would purposely bump into folks, then declare arrogantly, “Well, pardon me all to hell.”