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War on drugs or war on human rights?

By Ashna Butani

Ever since he came to power in June 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a war on drugs. Before coming to power he said, “If I make it to the Presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, holdup men, and do nothings, you better get out because I will kill you”. He has not fallen back on his word. However, the war on drugs has led to the deaths of around 7,000 Filipinos to date. Despite their being termed as ‘crimes against humanity’ by the Human rights watch, the President has remained unfazed and continued with his campaigns. Recently, on the 14th and 15th of August, police officers killed 32 people in a series of raids near Manila. This has been recognised as the bloodiest night since Duterte came to power.

Reducing what ails the country?

Duterte had waged a ruthless war on drugs in order to overcome the drug problem. His supporters have nicknamed him ‘the Punisher’. Those killed on Monday and Tuesday were alleged drug offenders. In total, 67 police operations were carried out across the Bulacan province, giving way to 32 deaths. Around 100 people were left in custody.

Police Senior Superintendent Romeo Caramat said that the police had conducted one-time raids before, but the number of casualties in the August attacks amounted to the most deaths. The police wanted to shock these drug personalities. They believe that the drug personalities will now think twice before continuing with their drug trade. The President, on the other hand, applauded the attack and said that ‘If we can kill another 32 every day, then maybe we can reduce what ails this country’. Earlier this year, the police gunned down the mayor of Ozamiz, his wife, two of his siblings and eleven others for having ties with drug dealing.

Duterte’s ambition threatening Filipinos?

The President’s ambitious ideas pose a threat to the human rights of the country’s citizens. Yet, the President is proud of this slaughter and feels no guilt even while killing children believing them to be ‘collateral damage’. The Human Rights Watch delved deep into the matter and revealed that the attacks in 2016 and January 2017 were cold blooded murders of unarmed drug suspects. In their research, they also proved that the police routinely planted drug packets and guns near the victims’ bodies to prove that they acted out of self-defence.

Noble intents, but criminal actions

The bloody night has drawn political opposition in the Philippines. Political opponents have filed a complaint regarding Duterte’s crimes against humanity with the International Criminal Court (ICC). They believe that Duterte has been paying no heed to the widespread complaints of human rights violations. Even though his intention to rid the country of drugs is a noble one, the methods he resorts to are ruthless and criminal. The President, unafraid of the ICC investigation, says that he is willing to rot in jail to save Filipinos. The verdict of this investigation will decide whether the Philippines will inch closer towards being a drug-free country, or be a country that abounds in human rights violations.

Featured Image Source: Flickr

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