In May 2016, with his party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), Rodrigo Duterte went from Mayor of the city Davao to President of the Philippines (Ismi, 2017). During his campaign, he sought to take heroic measures in dealing with human trafficking, poverty, corruption in government and any trace of drug use both in high state to the lowest class of men; and these persistent and powerful goals took the hearts of many Filipinos who have fallen victim to these issues under presidents before him. It was in Duterte’s face, that majority of the middle class saw possible understanding, and passion for the issues that pertain to them, that they may have felt was neglected by past officials. He knows what the people want and how to make it look convincing he’ll listen. But he also knows what he wants, and every life involved in the selling and use of drugs. His obsession with Philippine’s war on drugs, likely stems from his need for “total and undisputed control”, it is a mask that doesn’t really focus on the root of the problem but allows him to further assume dictatorship like governing. This mask proves to be a critical tool for the Duterte, aiding him in both his campaign and presidency. His unwavering confidence has come across as trustworthy and valiant, but the actions his regime have taken towards wiping out all people drug-related seem to say nothing more than a tyrant, and insanity. But it is undeniable the people of the Philippines have his support and have stuck by him through his first and second year as president. But the trusting façade have done more than just win people over, even allowing unregulated raids from vigilantes every night to take place in the country. Duterte’s presidency, the war on the war of drugs and the long-term state of the Philippines will be explored throughout this essay, to deduce whether the coverage of the president in media has had more to do with the outcome of the ongoing human rights crisis in the Philippines.
Duterte has stuck with the narrative throughout his administration of being the only president capable of solving the nation’s problems; focusing on efficiency and quantity over much else. He uses his magnifying ego and terror tactics to overcompensate for his lack of understanding into what could otherwise be done for the methamphetamine crisis; which affects every walk of life from citizens dealing in the slums to officials placed in government and military themselves. “My order is shoot to kill you,” Duterte began on August 6th in 2016, one of his many controversial remarks, which ended with “I don’t care about human rights, you’d better believe me.” (Demick, 2016). But despite the hostility, and lack of empathy of his people, he is still sustained by the support of the people. In a poll done by the Social Weather Station between December 8-16, 2017, a net satisfaction (most satisfied percentage minus dissatisfied) of 70% in Filipinos were tallied. This statistic broke a record previously held by Noynoy Aquino (SWS, 2017) and according to National Public Radio, “Third quarter data tells us that 7 to 8 out of 10 Filipinos continue to support the war on drugs” (Raphelson, 2017). We are unable to deny Duterte was put into office by the ballots of Filipinos. But may question his propaganda, the reality of the regime against narcotics that are thriving under his government. The media has taken its time to cover the crime and killings that have rampaged the streets, most seem to discuss the absurdity and treachery of the president and outcome of the war. But with anti-drug groups going about on their own raids and agenda, it’s hard to tell whether the public is being exposed to the full truth, the full numbers and the real side of the president.
The gap between putting an end to the inhumane ways of clearing drug use in the Philippines and allowing things to continue (and possibly get worse) may be the truth. To understand who exactly is at the hands of carrying out the arrests and executions is to know that the President handed these responsibilities to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the military (Ismi, 2017). Although being told otherwise, the police have used kept their foot in the door of those both persecuting drug users and dealers; having to compete with the masked and armed vigilante. These groups work under the nose of the President, who
“appears to have instigated unlawful acts by the police, incited citizens to commit serious violence, and made himself criminal liable under international law for the unlawful killings as a matter of command responsibility,” (Tan,2017).
Duterte inexplicitly promotes violence and injustice in his anti-drug campaign, by disallowing any other option other than force and death to end the war on drugs. Through the numbers and activity, these groups and soldiers may be succeeding, all because the president has left no room to think of the premises the drug user might have had to fall into the trap of narcotics. The reported numbers are staggering “at least 2000 suspected drug users were killed…as well as overcrowding of prisons”, accomplished in just under 3 months of the war on drugs (Macarayan, Ndeffo-Mbah, Beyrer, Galvani, 2016). A rounding of recent numbers estimates that since Duterte has been in power look like “over one million drug surrenders (pushers and users), 40,000 arrestees, and 6000 persons killed, with 2000 due to police operations and 4000 to extrajudicial killings” (Barrer, D. 2017). What isn’t being reported, that have to do with the high number of extrajudicial killings, is the corruption and bribery involved between ties, connections and relationships between those at the highest of the drug cartel to the poverty victim plagued by drugs. To better understand how police officers, who seem so relentless to catch any involved with possession and dealing of drugs- are the ones most susceptible to making deals with drug cartel; is to understand the long practice and cultural normality for police officers to work with criminals to gain profit from the position. The police officer agrees to target the people under these drug lords instead of suspecting them, for money. As Duterte entrusts his campaign with the police and military, it is flawed simply because their actions have done nothing other than to prove the existing system thrives no matter what regime they work under. This also proves true for what party governs the Philippines, as “the failure of the liberal democratic order to deliver popular empowerment and the wealth redistribution”; it was with the past government’s inability to address the problems most important to the middle and lower class that stressed their desire for Duterte’s passion (Ismi, 2017). Duterte served as “the image of a strongman who would get rid of the ‘national chaos’ and a ‘socialist’ … though he does not seem to understand what socialism is.” (Ismi, 2017). His disregard for human life and mercy, are what the Philippine community is now suffering the consequences of.
At which point will Duterte say enough? Is it possible to say he holds any capacity in his arsenal to do so? His pride and power may show no other future in the rest of his six-year term other than what has been going on ever since it began. There must be transparency between the police, military, and government with the public; so, the public is not trusting blindly, or out of fear. It will be through reformation of the deeply rooted system that allows injustice for profit, and opportunities for drug addicted to testify and rehabilitate. The voices of those wrongly murdered, accused and robbed of children, siblings and parents must be heard; and through thorough, courageous and honest journalism and news in media will we be forced to act.
Demick, B. (2016, August 26) Rodrigo Duterte’s Campaign of Terror in the Philippines. The New Yorker. Retrieved from: https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/rodrigo-dutertes-campaign-of-terror-in-the-philippines
Ismi, A. (2017, March 1) We are talking about a fascist regime. The Monitor. Retrieved from:http://content.ebscohost.com/ContentServer.asp?T=P&P=AN&K=121620732&S=R&D=a9h&EbscoContent=dGJyMMTo50SeprA4y9fwOLCmr1Cep65Srqa4TLOWxWXS&ContentCustomer=dGJyMPGrtE%2Bwp7RRuePfgeyx44Dt6fIA
Social Weather Stations: Statistic Advocacy (2018, Jan 17) Net satisfaction rating of the Duterte National Administration rises to record-high “Excellent” +70. Retrieved from: https://www.sws.org.ph/swsmain/artcldisppage/?artcsyscode=ART-20180117160545 Raphelson, S. (2017, November 13) Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte Sustains Support For Deadly War On Drugs. National Public Radio. Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/2017/11/13/563841402/philippines-rodrigo-duterte-sustains-support-for-deadly-war-on-drugs
Tan, L. (2017, March 3) Duterte encourages vigilante killings, tolerates police modus– Human Rights Watch. CNN Philippines. Retrieved from: http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2017/03/02/Duterte-PNP-war-on-drugs-Human-Rights-Watch.html
Hassan Majeed, M., Ahsan Ali, A. (2018, February) Genocide in the Philippines Asian Journal Psychiatry. Volume 32, Pages 27-28 Retrieved from: https://www-sciencedirect-com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/science/article/pii/S187620181730206X
Macarayan, E., Ndeffo-Mbah, M., Beyrer, C., P. Galvani, A. (2016, December 10-16) Philippine drug war and impending public health crisis. The Lancet. Volume 388. Page 2870 Retrieved from: https://www-sciencedirect-com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/science/article/pii/S0140673616324680
Barrer, D. (2017, December) Drug War Stories and the Philippine President. Asian Journal of Criminology. Volume 12. Issue 4. Pages 341–359. Retrieved from: https://link-springer-com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/article/10.1007/s11417-017-9253-x