One of the strongest American allies in Southeast Asia has embarked on a campaign of mass murder on its own citizens, at the behest of its president.
President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines—designated a “Major Non-NATO Ally” by the U.S. State Department—is pushing an anti-drug campaign that includes encouraging law enforcement and even civilians to kill drug users and dealers on the spot. And he will pardon anyone who takes part in the killings.
In Duterte’s July 25 State of the Nation address he said, “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”
During the election campaign earlier this year, Duterte estimated 100,000 people would be murdered during his campaign, and fish would grow fat from feeding on bodies dumped in Manila Bay.
This reign of terror has already seen more than 400 people summarily executed by police and others since May. Bodies are being found with cardboard placards saying, “I am a drug pusher” or “I am a drug addict.” Relatives and village residents are pictured weeping from the violent loss of their loved ones.
Police plan to proudly display their “success” by erecting a billboard outside their Manila headquarters to keep track of all the drug-related executions.
60,000 Filipinos have turned themselves in after Duterte began the campaign, hoping to avoid death by submitting to the harsh Filipino penal system. This is no guarantee of life, however, as there have been reports of suspects being killed inside police stations after being arrested.
Duterte is not swayed by criticism from human rights advocates, vowing instead to “retire with the reputation of Idi Amin” -- a brutal African ruler who killed tens of thousands of Ugandans in during his eight-year reign in the 1970s.
"Why will I give you a (due) process?” said Duterte. “I am the president. I don't give you [due] process.”
There is no indication that U.S. diplomats are attempting to dissuade the maniacal president, and the silence from American mainstream media is deafening. Since 9/11, the U.S. has renewed a strong partnership with the Philippines as part of the “war on terror,” and the U.S. once again has a military presence there.
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The U.S., which maintains a strong military presence in the region and has indicated a “pivot to Asia” coming soon, has enlisted the Philippines in its standoff with China. An international court case was brought by the Philippines against China regarding a territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, and the court recently ruled against China’s claim.
China rejected the ruling, as expected, and continues to develop the area with military installations. Beijing is also considering establishing an Air Defense Identification Zone, which would require all traffic to notify Beijing before entering the air space. This would be a major challenge to American military hegemony.
Perhaps this has emboldened the Filipino president to ignore 21st century human rights and embark on a campaign of mass murder against people who use or sell substances deemed “illegal.”
As we know, government prohibition of drugs creates the black market which fuels violence and health risks from unknown product sources. Decriminalizing drugs, as Portugal has demonstrated, is the answer to reducing addiction, reducing health risks and ending the violence of the drug trade.
The International Commission of Jurists has reminded Duterte that “the Philippines had passed laws and signed international agreements binding it to work against police abuse, extra-judicial killingsm and the death penalty.”
However, these words are falling on deaf ears as Duterte and his partners in terror continue the most brutal campaign against drugs the modern world has witnessed. 11 people a day are being summarily executed, and Duterte says “that is not enough.”
Solicitor General Jose Calida pledged his support, saying, “'I am here to encourage the (police) not to be afraid of any congressional or senate investigations. We will defend them ... I am the defender of the (police).”
When authority is allowed to run amok in this manner, killing people at will with no due process, this thirst for blood and power does not go away.
“I strongly suspect that Filipinos will come to regret their election of a president who expresses such contempt for basic principles of due process and human rights,’ said Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “A government that condones extra-judicial killings of people who use or sell drugs will eventually turn its terror on others – it’s just a matter of time.”
The U.S. -- which has its own record of human rights abuses carried out under the "war on terror" -- has no hesitation claiming human rights abuses against other countries that don't bow to American hegemony, but remains silent when its own allies are the purveyors of mass murder.