Rodrigo Duterte's drugs purge sends Philippines into danger zone
He has little time for
the usual presumption of innocence, due legal process and the separation of
powers between the executive and the judiciary.
160,000-odd Filipino-Australians are entitled to be distraught at the way new
president Rodrigo Duterte is conducting an anti-drugs purge in their homeland.
Driven by concern over corruption of public officials and what he claims to be
a pandemic in which 3 per cent of the population are addicts, Mr Duterte has
stepped up his search-and-destroy project against those he suspects of
supporting the illicit drugs industry.
will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier and the last pusher
have surrendered or been put behind bars ... or below ground if you wish,"
he said on Sunday.
Duterte named almost 160 lawyers, judges, military officers and even the police
as suspects in a national TV address, saying they would be stripped of their
gun licences in a nation wracked by crime gangs.
But some on
the hit list are dead or have already been dismissed, raising concerns about an
approach already under fire for being based more on conspiracy theories than
publicly available evidence.
has little time for the usual presumption of innocence, due legal process and
the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.
process has nothing to do with my mouth," Mr Duterte said. "There are
no proceedings here, no lawyers."
While the President has previously opposed extrajudicial killings, his rhetoric
seems to have empowered and validated vigilantes who have sought to impose mob
600,000 people have surrendered to police and at least 400 people suspected of
dealing or even using drugs have been killed by vigilantes and authorities
since the President took power in June. His platform reflected the
"shoot-to-kill" methods he employed for two decades as mayor of the
southern city of Davao.
President has pledged to pardon police accused of human rights violations and
has even been happy to liken his legacy to that of former Ugandan despot Idi
wants to end the decade-long ban on capital punishment in the Philippines for
"retribution" against criminals. The move has won the support of the
nation's most popular sportsman, boxer Manny Pacquiao, who has been elected to
allows the death penalty to discipline the people and to punish those
wrongdoers," the senator said in comments aimed at offering justification
for the crackdown to a population, which is 80 per cent Roman Catholic.
has voiced concerns about the threat to the rule of law.
But some in
the media are lauding Mr Duterte's approach as a reality check after the
disappointments flowing from the so-called people's revolution of 1986 and
subsequent governments. Some claim the President's purge is part of a campaign
to rid the Philippines of oligarchs – the big families who control much of the
nation's economy, allegedly at the expense of the poor. Mr Duterte has targeted
large companies that avoid tax.
hardline, populist approach has prompted some to liken Mr Duterte to US
presidential candidate Donald Trump, but that's hardly constructive. They do
share an ability to tap into disgruntled voters who seek simple solutions to
complex problems. Beyond that, Mr Duterte's family is growing in power as he
shows signs of leadership more akin to long-time Philippines dictator Ferdinand
Marcos. Indeed, he has split the nation by agreeing to the Marcos family's
decades-old request to bury the embalmed body in the so-called Heroes Cemetery
alongside war heroes and eminent individuals.
ruled the Philippines for 31 years, for the most part through martial law,
restrictions on the rights of his opponents and stacking public institutions
with his supporters.
Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is so worried by Mr Duterte's brazen approach that
she sent him a letter warning that only the Supreme Court is authorised to
discipline members of the judiciary and that judges could become what she
called "collateral damage". With 26 judges assassinated since 1999,
and most by crime lords, the chief justice demanded that the President allow
the judges to retain their gun licences for self defence.
Philippines has corruption and drug problems. The way Mr Duterte is behaving,
it is rapidly gaining a government problem as well.
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