President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines is taking serious steps to fight the war on drugs that rages on in his nation. The responsibility to bring in drug suspects has not only fallen on police but also on leaders of local areas and those who live alongside the suspects. In fact, residents have been tasked with the duty of naming anyone who may be linked to trafficking and drug use.
Since Rodrigo took office on June 30, there have been more than 3,600 people killed by foot soldiers in the war on drugs. Most of the 1,375 people who were shot by police officers had appeared on lists, national police chief Ronald Dela Rosa explains. As for the remaining 2,275 people killed, likely by vigilantes, it is unclear how many were on the list as well.
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The momentum of the campaign came from a speech shared by Duterte last Friday when he compared himself to Hitler, stating that he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug addicts in the Philippines. However, the campaign’s success and efficiency are all dependent on the lowly officials and leaders in the country’s barangays — the districts and villages.
Dela Rosa spoke with Reuters on the matter.
“They are on the forefront of this fight. They can identify the drug users and pushers in their barangays. They know everyone.”
Despite global condemnation of his actions, Duterte has vowed to wage the campaign until next June, as relayed via interviews with local police, residents, and barangay officials, who also share the tactics of the “anti-drugs crusade” launched by the popular president.
Barangay leaders who are known as captains have been pivotal in drawing up the lists of suspects. An enthusiastic supporter of Duterte and captain of Pinagbuhatan, Maricar Asilo Vivero, spoke of her confidence in the campaign.
“The war on drugs is good. It lowers crime. It identifies those who want to change.”
Within her barangay, which has a population of roughly 145,000, Vivero said motorbike-riding killers shot and killed two men who had been named as drug pushers on the barangay’s watch list. Vivero shared that she was sympathetic to the victims’ families, yet she did not feel any responsibility for their deaths.
She added that people were not added to the lists with “the objective of killing them, or asking the police or authorities to kill them,” she said.
“Our objective is to guide them, to direct their lives to the better – not to kill,” she added.
When Vivero was asked whether people added to the list were more likely to get killed than not, she replied, “No, I don’t think so.”
There were reportedly 323 suspected users and dealers on Vivero’s barangay’s watch list. The numbers increased when individuals turned themselves in as users.
And they wonder if the presidency has gone to Duterte’s head. pic.twitter.com/I5tFS9KtuF
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The barangay office sits at the community’s heart and each has a captain along with six kagawad, or councillors, who are elected in polls and are often considered corrupt. The system goes back to prior to the arrival of Spanish colonizers in the 16th century. A barangay can range in size from simply two densely populated streets to a countryside that involves miles of territory.
As the publication states, “Barangay captains routinely attend the weddings, baptisms and funerals of constituents, and even victims of serious crimes will sometimes report to them first rather than the police.”
As noted, there was a shocked response to Duterte’s comparison to himself as Hitler, and the ongoing bloodshed will likely continue to draw global criticism.
[Feature Image by Jes Aznar/Getty Images]