Rodrigo Duterte, the president-elect of the Philippines, swore to wipe out crime and corruption during his campaign and urged citizens to shoot and kill drug peddlers. Now that he’s been elected, it appears that citizens are taking his advice to heart, and the bodies of suspected drug dealers are lining the streets of some Philippine cities, ABC News is reporting.
Duterte’s bold approach won him plenty of support and was largely responsible for his landslide victory at the polls, but he has sparked concerns from different quarters about people taking the law into their own hands instead of following due process.
Rodrigo Duterte warned of a “blood presidency” during his reign, saying that there would be no hiding place for anyone dealing drugs or involved in crime. Reports say mysterious bodies are already turning up in the streets, with one body found wearing a sign reading “Don’t follow me or you’ll die next.”
Duterte, who goes by the moniker “Duterte Harry” after the legendary Clint Eastwood character who had little regard for going by the book, insists he will stick to the electoral promises despite condemnation from religious organizations and human rights advocates. During one of his campaigns, he promised that drug dealers would not last long during his presidency.
“If I couldn’t convince you, I’ll have you killed. If you are into drugs, I’m sorry. I’ll have to apologize to your family because you’ll surely get killed.”
The threats seem to be working, as hundreds of drug dealers and addicts have given up to police and signed pledges to change for the better.
National police data reveals that 39 drug dealer suspects were killed before the election, but since then, over 72 have been killed. The outgoing police chief, Ricardo Marquez, refuted claims that the spike in deaths had any connection with Duterte’s presidency. The police chief insisted that the intense anti-drug campaign was part of his agenda when he took over the previous year.
“There is no truth to what is being said that it is only now that the police have stepped up the fight against drugs. So far this year, 183 have been killed in clashes between police and clandestine drug lab workers, dealers and users.”
A mother who saw the body of her dead son sprawled on the sidewalk with four bullet wounds in his back decried the vigilante justice being meted without due process.
A human rights campaigner expressed alarm over the everyday killings of alleged criminals and drug dealers. Recently, the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said in a letter that the religious group was worried over growing reports of vigilante killings.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas said, “[T]o kill a suspect, no matter how much surveillance work may have antecedently been on the suspect, is not morally justified.”
Others have hailed the new president’s heavy-handed approach to crime. Arsenio Evangelista, whose son was kidnapped and killed, praised Duterte’s plan to fight crime, particularly drug-related offenses. He also welcomed a reintroduction of the death penalty. However, he supported the police chief’s claim that the increase in drug-related deaths had nothing to do with the new president because the numbers had spiked way before he was voted into office.
Evangelista said the criminal system was ineffective and corrupt, adding that the high number of deaths could be linked to corrupt police who wanted to sabotage Duterte’s plan to purge the force. He went on to say it did not make sense that drug dealers who were known before for giving bribes to police would suddenly become violent and engage in gunfights.
The 71-year-old Duterte begins his term June 30.
[Photo by Jes Aznar/Getty Images]