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‘I Don’t Care About Human Rights,’ Says Philippine President As War On Drugs Escalates

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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Shortly after promising to maintain his “shoot-to-kill” order against drug traffickers, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has identified around 150 government officials, judges, and law enforcement officers as having connections to the drug trade.

Those named on the list were instructed to turn themselves in to the proper authorities within 24 hours in a televised speech at a military camp in Davao Sunday morning. “Or else I will order the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines to hunt for you,” said Duterte.

“Go out naked to the world and show your foolishness,” said Duterte. The president admitted that the accusations may not be true; however, his “mouth has no due process,” and it is his “sworn duty” to present this information to the public.

Duterte ordered the cancellation of “any and all” firearms licenses for individuals on his list of suspects. With the executive “shoot-to-kill” order still in effect, if those named fail to surrender, they will essentially be “dead men walking.”

Around 800 people have been killed since Duterte won by a landslide in May. It would seem that he is making good on his campaign promise to kill tens of thousands of criminals.

“The campaign of shoot-to-kill will remain until the last day of my term if I’m still alive by then,” the 71-year-old president said during a press conference in his hometown.

Duterte’s “war on drugs” has resulted in hundreds of police killings and executions, as well as countless extrajudicial murders by unidentified vigilantes, all of which have the full support of the Duterte administration. Police and military personnel have been given Duterte’s “official and personal guarantee” of immunity for drug-related killings.

Many human rights organizations have criticized Duterte for his extreme stance on drug control and his administration’s support for extrajudicial killings.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) condemned Duterte’s “apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killing, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedom.”

According to UNDOC Executive Director Yury Fedotov, the U.N. “remains greatly concerned by the reports of extrajudicial killing of suspected drug dealers and users in the Philippines.”

The statement released by the UNDOC reads, “Such responses contravene the provisions of the international drug control conventions” and “do not serve the cause of justice.”

Deputy Asia Director for Human Rights Watch Phelim Kine, said that surges in killings of individuals suspected of being affiliated with the country’s drug problem do not represent a success in crime control, but are instead clear signs of a “government failure to protect people’s most fundamental human rights.”

Richard Branson, a British billionaire and philanthropist, as well as a member of the board of directors for Amnesty International, criticized the Philippine’s war on drugs, stating that the campaign is “bound to fail.”

“Fighting fire with fire won’t work. The Philippines must reverse course immediately and choose evidence-based policies that put people first, reduce harm, and put an end to these atrocities,” said Branson in a statement on the Virgin Group website.

Catholic leader Archbishop Socrates Villegas, in a post on his website, asked, “From a generation of drug addicts, shall we become a generation of street murderers?”

Others human rights watchers have lobbied complaints against the deteriorating conditions in Philippine prisons, which are rapidly becoming overcrowded as suspects turn themselves in to escape almost certain death.

More than 125,000 suspected drug dealers and users have turned themselves into the police since May. On July 21, around 10,000 suspects surrendered to authorities. These alleged criminals are seeking “safety” in jails over a horrible death in the streets, said Human Rights Watch in a statement Tuesday.

In response to the numerous criticisms of reported human rights atrocities in the Philippines, Duterte replied, “I don’t care about human rights, believe me.” Duterte argues that the situation in his country is not merely a crisis; rather, it is a war. He says that he is “invoking the articles of war” and that “human rights cannot be used as a shield or an excuse to destroy the country.”

An estimated 600,000 people are currently involved in some way with the illegal drug trade in the Philippines.

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