Early on in President Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency, Filipino TV news watchers saw a video clip of Mr. Duterte encouraging and emboldening his police officers to kill suspected drug users and pushers promising they would not go to jail and, instead, will be given medals and cash rewards for every person killed.
Eight months after, some 8,000 poor Filipinos had been reported killed in this President’s anti-drugs campaign.
Last Monday, National Geographic showed on TV, coverage of one night’s killing spree around a squatters’ area in Manila last year, when seven suspected drug users or pushers were gunned down and killed that night in that area alone.
Last Tuesday, a presidential spokesperson claimed on television that President Duterte was a champion of human rights.
Last Wednesday, National Police Director Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa virtually condemned the report of Human Rights Watch as reporting about extrajudicial killings without evidence.
That’s like asking for evidence that the sun is bright.
After the London-based Amnesty International (AI), the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the U.S. State Department released their respective reports within days of each other two weeks ago about extrajudicial killings in the Philippines (called “extrajudicial executions” by AI), the Duterte Administration, this past week, could be likened, in our view, to a headless chicken running around, giving virtually ridiculous defenses and justifications for the killings that took place as we narrated above.
The above groups came up with either or all of the following:
1. Those who were killed were mere suspects and poor.
2. The killings could be classified as “crimes against humanity” (one of three crimes which the International Criminal Court [ICC] in The Hague could try and mete out punishments).
3. In some cases, the police officers who did the killings planted evidence and stole family properties inside the homes of the victims. Some police officers received commissions from funeral homes.
4. Extrajudicial killings (EJK) increased sharply under Pres. Duterte’s governance.
5. By command responsibility, Pres. Duterte could be made responsible for the killings.
6. Pres. Duterte could be criminally-liable under an international court of law.
Pres. Duterte, disputing the AI conclusion that EJK is a crime against humanity, claimed in a recent speech that “criminals don’t have humanity.”
(Those killed were not yet criminals in the eyes of the law. They were mere suspects.)
Vice President Leni Robredo disagreed and said everyone, even criminals, are entitled to human rights.
Meanwhile, DU30 critics from within the Philippines are observed to be increasing in volume and number, including VP Robredo, netizens, prelates of the Catholic Church, some senators and congressmen, and women.