War on Drugs Philippines – Operation Double Barrel

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Updated: Jun 14, 2022
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As of June 30, 2016, President Duterte of the Philippines has given orders allowing the state-sanctioned murder of over 20,000 individuals allegedly involved in the drug trade. The whole situation is shockingly gruesome. Police invade homes and arrest individuals, people ruthlessly shot and left in the slums. More often than not the killers remain anonymous as hardly any security exists at the place of killings. Extrajudicial killings have happened every day since his election, and they are justified in the Philippine Drug War through vigilante style executions, denial of human rights, and blaming regular crime, despite the fact that unjustified executions violate human rights.

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Vigilante style killings are the main form of justification in the Duterte’s war on drugs, as it gives the perpetrators something to hide behind. Bodies turn up in the streets by the hundreds, the only identifying cause of death – a bullet. More often than not, the victims have a cardboard sign tied around their neck labeling them as “users” or “dealers” (Villamor, 6). It is stated in nearly every single case, that the victims are assumed to have been involved with drugs. The key word there is assumed; Most of the victims have guns and drugs planted their bodies, justifying the police’s claims of a vigilante-style shootout resulting in the death of the victims. In a video posted by FRANCE 24 English, a camera crew was allowed to accompany the Philippine police on a drug bust. As the police vehicle approached the household, the camera operators were forced to turn off the cameras as to not compromise the raid. When the cameras were turned back on again, the police can be seen removing two severely injured individuals who later died at the local hospital. The police report that the victims had shot back, but the shots heard by the cameramen equated the shots identified on the victims’ bodies (France 24 English, 3:45). The victims were left unnamed, and the police have shown no remorse.

It is stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in article 11.1 that ‘Everyone charged with a penal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to the law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense’ (UN General Assembly, 1948). Extrajudicial and vigilante-style killings bypass the justice system, therefore violating that human right. Often times the killings leave bodies that show signs of torture and abuse, like bruising on the bottom of the feet and strangulation marks on the necks. In the UDHR, article 5 states ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ (UN General Assembly, 1948). This furthermore shows that the deaths of the victims are not just in any fashion.

To make matters worse, Duterte and his officials are actively ignoring the claims that his extrajudicial killing violates human rights. Duterte himself claimed that it was not a violation of human rights because drug users are not humans. Stated in an article by Joseph Hincks, “‘Crime against humanity?’ Duterte has memorably mused, ‘In the first place, I’d like to be frank with you: are they humans?’” (Hincks, 6). This statement by Duterte is problematic, as the “U” in UDHR stands for universal; Every human being regardless of race, gender, age, religion, and nationality, is entitled to the rights presented in the UDHR. The fact that Duterte claims that the victims of his war on drugs are not humans is an attempt to justify their deaths. Also, in a public speech, Duterte compared the claims of human rights to essentially advertisements; That it was to attract attention and that they were making a big deal out of the situation. This same view can be seen with Duterte’s claim that drug users are not human beings. Furthermore, Duterte allows anonymous kill squads to do the killing for the police.

The anonymous kill squads remove all threat of recognition. This works in favor for Duterte, as he cannot name the killers, leaving all evidence behind. When it comes to the summary executions, there are no other witnesses, leaving the word of mouth as the only viable evidence. After all, the anonymous kill squads may even be the police working undercover to carry out Duterte’s orders. Not only does Duterte allow for the anonymous kill squads, but he and his officials also place blame on the ordinary crime happening in the Philippines. This not only makes it easier for Duterte to carry out his orders but to also obscure the reach of his drug war. This supports the unjustified deaths because it shows just how corrupt the leading parties of the Philippines are.b

It is clear that Duterte’s campaign against drugs in the Philippines will not stop, as his orders have not ceased. President Duterte is doing as he said before he was elected. When he was mayor of Davao City, Duterte promised that he would kill millions of drug users. While there is an overwhelming support for Duterte’s campaign, it is mostly from the wealthier populace as the campaign is mainly focused on the poor areas of the Philippines. However, there is a staggering controversy; In a survey conducted by Social Weather Station, “78% of Filipinos said they feared they or someone they knew would become a victim of extrajudicial killings — yet 85% reported being satisfied with the ongoing operations to curb drugs” (Hincks, 6). It is controversial because it is widely accepted that it is dangerous to live in the Philippines, but the people who live there still disbelieve it could happen to them or a loved one.

Every individual is at risk in the Philippines, not just the poor. Before Duterte was elected president, he had claimed that his war on drugs would, in the end, help the poor communities. Not only was he lying to the population, but the poor communities are suffering. A Filipina mother had two of her sons murdered by the police. Now she is even further into poverty as there are fewer people in the household to earn money. Duterte’s campaign has incited a community of fear throughout the Philippines. This gives the Philippine police a stronger persuasion as fear is a strong way to control. The residents of the Philippines are scared to speak out for fear of losing their own lives. Duterte has even encouraged individuals to report others who are affiliated with the drug trade as to make his job easier. Because people are afraid to speak out it allows the extrajudicial killings to continue. Even the lives of people who have confessed for safety may be at stake. In the same article by Joseph Hincks, he states “…The film suggests that the list of “surrendered” people compiled under such operations — which now counts more than 1 million members — might just be a hit list” (Hincks, 4). For Duterte to have this list is frightening considering that most who plead innocence or turn themselves in are still brutally murdered.

Unfortunately, intervention from another country is unlikely, as Duterte and his war on drugs have also been praised by president Trump of the United States. In a video documentary by Univision Noticias, Trump states “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. What a great job you’re doing” (Univision Noticias, 1:15). Trump’s endorsements have helped Duterte by somewhat obscuring the truth. If the American population had the knowledge of the terrifying truth of what is happening in the Philippines, then action would be in order. This does not just apply to the American populace either; Any country with the power should intervene, but it will be unlikely to happen as the president now endorses Duterte’s campaign.

Even the safe places like rehab centers cannot hold any more individuals. Those who have been arrested and avoided death might end up in a place like the Mega Rehab Center in Fort Magsaysay?, ?Palayan?. Space is so limited that a facility the size of twenty football fields has patients sleeping in extremely narrow spots with several other individuals. A video taken by Howard Johnson inside the facility shows the lives of the patients at the center. One man, a methamphetamine addict, who wished to stay anonymous says “I was so scared. That’s the reason why I was sent here. I lost the trust of my family. Before my family did not want to visit me, but they want to visit me now with the help of the social workers and the psychologists…” (Johnson, 3:15). Clearly help for the victims of the drug war does exist, but it is sparse in the wake of its destruction.

A call to action should be in order. Duterte’s war on drugs has taken over 20,000 lives through extrajudicial means. Those means were through vigilante style executions that bypass the justice system, denying the universal human rights given to every human being, and obscuring the reach of Duterte’s power through anonymous kill squads and other cover-ups, and none of it should be legal according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Invading privacy, executing someone on the assumption they are guilty, and denying human rights to the victims all go against the statements put forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Universal means everyone, especially the 56 known children who were murdered in drug bust attempts. To deny an individual his human rights is to lose your own. If president Trump did not support Duterte’s war on drugs then perhaps the United States would intervene. If Duterte and his officials were put on international trial for crimes against humanity, the killings might not completely stop but the source of corruption would be eliminated. By removing the source of corruption, hopefully, more of the killings could be justified through normal means. Duterte and his officials should be trialed for crimes against humanity. With the knowledge and power, as citizens of the human race, we should stop Duterte and find justification for all who lost their lives through extrajudicial means.

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War on Drugs Philippines - Operation Double Barrel. (2022, Feb 12). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/war-on-drugs-philippines-operation-double-barrel/