PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE’S WAR ON DRUGS AND DEATH SQUADS


03/01/2017




Controversial Philippines President, Rodrigo Duterte, who came to Presidency vowing to abolish drugs and crimes in the Philippines, has said that he is willing to throw corrupt officials from helicopters mid-air. He said that he has done it before.

Mahin Siddiki – TDO –President Duterte, previously the mayor of Davao, is known internationally for his undiplomatic and offensive language, and scandalous remarks.

Earlier in December, he came under the watch of human rights groups when he said that he had killed three people himself. Allegedly, these three people were kidnappers and rapists, whom the president had apparently shot in the head. The statement came from the president hours after his spokesman had denied these accusations. According to Duterte’s spokesman, the president should be taken “seriously, but not literally”.

Human rights groups and the opposition believe that the President’s statements about killing three people can be used as a cause for impeachment.

Recently, the president, in regards to the financial aid he has promised to areas in Philippines where the typhoon hit, has said that if any corrupt officials take the money, he will throw them out of a helicopter mid-air. Apparently, he has done it before.

These scandalous comments, along with his controversial war on drugs in the Philippines, are reasons why president Duterte has occupied news headlines internationally since he was elected as president in June.

Within the short time that Duterte has been in office, 6000 people have officially been killed by police, vigilantes and mercenaries regarding the war on drugs in Philippines.

Drugs pose a serious problem in the Philippines. 150 officials, police officers and judges are thought to be involved in the profitable trade of drugs, especially the amphetamine “Shabu”. Shabu is a pure and potent form of amphetamine which is produced in industrial-scale labs in the Philippines, and then traded across Asia.

The Philippines has the highest rate of Shabu users in East Asia. Shabu is often used by the poor laborers in order to work longer and harder, and in order to curb hunger and appetite for food which they cannot afford. Therefore, Shabu has more of a practical use than that of pleasure for these people. Furthermore, the Philippines only has 20 or lower rehabilitation centers, therefore, it is even harder for the poor to get help, once addicted.

However, Duterte’s crackdown on drugs has so far only attacked the lowest level, and very poor drug dealers of impoverished neighborhoods and slums. Not much has been done regarding the higher-ups involved in the trade. This is a concern for some people, because killing poor drug dealers won’t solve the problem of producing and trading drugs in the Philippines. Instead, this crackdown is likely to make officials and police officers involved in the drug trade more cautious, and therefore harder to catch.

Many of the people who voted for Duterte agree with his war on drugs, but not his policy of killing people. Especially relatives of the victims have been outspoken. They have said that the victims should have been given another chance. Victims are usually young and middle-aged men from slums. Their deaths often leave family members and children in abject poverty, and hopelessly wondering what their future holds.

Some citizens have also voiced concern over Duterte’s intense focus on the drug problem. The education, housing, food and labor sectors of Philippines also need attention and improvement. Drug addiction is often related to poor education, housing and poor labor opportunities in developing nations. Therefore, in order for a sustainable, long-term improvement to be achieved in regards to drugs, these sectors also need to be intensely focused upon.

President Duterte has also been under scrutiny for allegedly creating death squads who are paid on the basis of the number of kills they have made. Apparently police officers are the ones who give the orders for the assassinations, which are carried out by members of small death squads. The reward for each kill is $430; a very substantial amount of money for the poor people who are often members of these squads.

Philippines isn’t the only country to have declared a war on drugs. In the 70’s President Richard Nixon also famously launched a war on drugs in America. However, the success of this war is questioned to this day. It has been seen that rather than curb drug abuse, war on drugs rather targets the impoverished neighborhoods which need help the most in these situations, and further stigmatizes these neighborhoods.

The people that need help the most are sometimes the ones who are subjected to the severest of punishments, as can be seen in President Duterte’s approach as well. It hasn’t been long since President Duterte has come into office, and therefore it is yet to be seen whether he is able to positively change the drug situation in the Philippines.

However, so far, the situation looks discriminatingly stacked against the poor of the Philippines, and not against the actual drug lords and corrupt officials who are the masterminds behind this problem.

 


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