The brutal drug war raging in the Philippines, which has claimed over a thousand lives, just intensified with the introduction of state-sponsored assassins.
Public awareness of the Philippines’ forced assassination program took a giant step forward when reports of a young mother called “Maria “(pseudonym) surfaced. Maria was forced to carry out contracted hits against drug dealers, according to the BBC. So far, Maria has killed six people, and all of her victims perished with a surprise bullet to the brain.
Philippine President Rodrgio Duterte has been in office for a little over 100 days, and in that time, there have been 1,900 drug-related killings, reports Aljazeera. Duterte promised to kill 100,000 criminals during his first six months in office, warning dealers, “Do not destroy my country, because I will kill you.”
Of the almost 2,000 drug-related deaths, only around 750 killings were carried out by police. The remaining 1,150 were extrajudicial killings. While the state has not specifically said that it condones extrajudicial violence, the Duterte administration has encouraged citizens to “seize the momentum” in the ongoing campaign against illegal drugs.
Maria’s hit-team consists of four members, three of which are women. Women are less likely to draw attention from targets, reports the BBC.
“If it was up to me, I really don’t want to do it any longer, but my boss told us if one of us tries to leave, we would be killed,” said Maria.
When asked about the identity of her boss, Maria revealed that she works for a police officer.
Maria and her husband, like the other members of the team, come from poverty and were unable to bring in a steady income before becoming killers for the state. For each contracted hit, the team receives 20,000 Philippine pesos ($430).
These contract killers needed the money for their families, but they feel that things are starting to get out of hand. Maria said, “I would not want our children to open their eyes to what we do. I don’t want them to come back at us saying they got to live because we killed for money.”
President Duterte is combating a serious drug problem which is said to involve around 3 million people. He hopes to stop the spread of “shabu,” a type of methamphetamine which is mass produced in the Philippines and spread throughout the country and to other countries in the region.
The president’s war on drugs targets everyone from common citizens to government officials to police and military personnel. Duterte calls the war a “success,” claiming that hundreds of thousands of criminals have turned themselves in to authorities.
Not all observers of the Duerte war on drugs agree with the methods used. Duterte is “steamrolling the rule of law” through his war on drugs, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday.
In response to criticisms by the United Nations and human rights organizations, Duterte said, “It’s a joke for you to tell me about human rights.” He added that if critics had an alternative solution, they could try to fix the problem themselves.
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