In the police station, “Shoot him.” Duterte
In the suburbs of the Philippines, bodies drop on the streets, one after the other. The Philippine National Police roam around with one order in their mind; shoot to kill. President Rodrigo Duterte has given the police the licence to kill any suspected drug dealers or drug users who resist arrest. The Guardian reported that on August 17, 2017, 32 people were killed. Police claim that all of them fought back, which gave them no option but to kill, while witnesses say that some victims weren’t even armed. During his presidential campaign in 2016, Duterte promised the citizens of Manila to put an end to all drug abuse within the nation. Ever since he took office, the president’s call for a ‘war on drugs’ has taken the lives of over 7,000 people. Not only are the police allowed to act as judge, jury, and executioner, but Duterte also encourages citizens to do so. If any drug offender refuses to be taken down to the police station, “Shoot him.” Duterte said in a nationally televised speech. “Shoot him and I’ll give you a medal.” The president’s bloody approach to the situation and the rising number of extrajudicial killings has alarmed many countries and organisations worldwide, and is a highly debated issue. For President Rodrigo Duterte, the drug menace is one of the greatest threats filipinos face, and he would do anything to rid the Philippines of it. He feels that ending the lives of these drug offenders is the most efficient solution for the problem the nation faces. Duterte glows with pride over the progress his ‘war on drugs’ has made, and he even compared the situation to the holocaust. “Hitler massacred three million Jews … there’s three million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.” he said in a speech in his hometown, Davao. Duterte holds a utilitarian perspective on the issue. He believes that we should look at the the consequences of our actions rather than the actions themselves. In this case, from his point of view, although we are killing criminals, we are making the country a better place for everyone else. Duterte describes drug users as “beasts and vultures preying on the helpless, innocent and unsuspecting.” By killing 3 million people, the other 100 million people get to live peaceful, safe, happy lives, thus maximising happiness for the greater good. Duterte thinks in this manner because of his past experiences dealing with drug offenders. When Duterte was mayor of Davao from 2013 to 2016, he also allowed death squads to carry out extrajudicial killings of drug users. As a result of his campaign, at one point in 2015, Davao was ranked as the 9th safest city in the world. He realised that his plan had in fact succeeded, and the positive effects of his actions were shown in that ranking. This is ultimately what gave Duterte the idea to pursue his ‘war on drugs’ on a wider, national scale as president of the Philippines. Duterte has a clear vision of what the Philippines could be without these drug addicts, and he doesn’t let anything, or anyone, stand in the way of achieving his dream. For instance, Senator Leila de Lima was one of President Duterte’s biggest critics. After inquiring into the killings, Duterte jailed the senator with alleged ties in the drug trade. However, Senator Leila de Lima pleaded guilty, and many sources claim that these charges were trumped up by Duterte in an attempt to shut down her down. Furthermore, he has threatened to shoot human rights protestors, or in Duterte’s words, ‘human rights idiots’. If this ‘war on drugs’ continues, it could potentially lead to more people going against Duterte, which could result in forcing him taking more action to silence them, actions which will be more violent than just being sentenced to jail.In contrast, Amnesty International, a global, non-governmental organisation which fights for human rights, stands strongly against Duterte’s war on drugs. This is due to the fact that through their eyes, the extrajudicial killings are ‘cold blooded murders’. They hold a deontological perspective, as unlike duterte, they are more concerned about the action of killing itself rather than the consequences it brings. Their viewpoint is that drug users should face rehabilitation, not death, as killing is just wrong. In response to the 32 killings in one day, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, James Gomez, stated that “These shocking deaths are violating the key right to life and completely flouting due process.” The NGO believes that death is not the answer for these crimes, and the nation is completely disrespecting the legal rights of these drug abusers. James Gomez also said, “Responsibility is not just limited to those pulling the trigger, but also those who order or encourage murders and other crimes against humanity.”, implying that Duterte himself has blood on his hands. Gomez’s use of the phrase ‘crimes against humanity’ when describing the extrajudicial killings is largely influenced by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Article 7 of the text of the Rome Statute, states that crimes of humanity are “any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.” The ‘following acts’ include murder, which gives Amnesty International a valid basis for their perspective. In January 2017, Amnesty International conducted an investigation into Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ and accused the police of targeting ‘poor and defenceless people’, while planting evidence. In the same month, several other organisations labelled the police as corrupt and used the drug war as a cover for murder for personal intentions. Following these accusations, Duterte did pull the National Police out of the drug war in January 2017 to ‘cleanse the police force’, only to reinstate them several weeks later. It has become obvious that this violence isn’t going to end unless someone does something about it. This is why Amnesty International is now urging the ICC to investigate into the ‘war on drugs’. If Amnesty International continues down this past and gets evidence to prove their theory to be true, with the help from the ICC, they could end the drug war once and for all.Another way to view the deadly ‘war on drugs’ is through the eyes of christians. The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) claims that while Duterte may have good intentions on ending the drug menace, the slaughter has to stop. “While we reiterate our support for the campaign against illegal drug use, we are appalled at the way such ‘war on drugs’ is being conducted.” said the NCCP. The NCCP is a group of christian churches in the Philippines, and their perspective is heavily influenced by their holy text: the bible. The Ten Commandments in the bible are known as laws for which one should live by. One of these commandments is simply ‘You shall not murder’. This is the basis for the perspective the NCCP holds on the issue. Likewise, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle holds the same perspective. He claims that inflicting harm or death on others is “inhuman and un-Christian”. On September 21 2017, members from various churches marched in protest of the ‘war on drugs’ from San Agustin Church to Luneta Park. Local organisers claim that the number of protesters that day summed up to almost 3,000. People prayed the rosary as they walked and others held up protest signs. More protests are already being planned, and in the future, this could either help end the ‘war on drugs’, or as mentioned earlier, it could result in Duterte silencing these critics.This issue is very important to me, as I am from the Philippines and most of my family lives there. It’s the country which I call home, so it hurts to see this ‘war on drugs’ unfold. Personally, I am against Duterte’s anti-drug campaign. I share the same deontological perspective as Amnesty International. I believe that no crime should be punished by death, and especially not by extrajudicial killings. These criminals should all have a proper trial, because the act of killing another human being is just wrong. One influence on my perspective has definitely been my family, specifically my grandfather. Whenever we go back to the Philippines, the topic of Duterte always comes up at the dinner table. My grandpa could go on and on all night about Duterte and how he disapproves of his ways, and over time, I began to feel the same way. Another reason why I think this way is because of news sources. Seeing the death toll rise every day makes me wish I could just stop it all. Writing this essay didn’t drastically change my perspective on the issue. If anything, when I discovered some things that Duterte actually said, it just made me hate him even more. However, it did help me understand his point of view better. Duterte wants to cleanse the philippines of all drug dealers and users, and he has good intentions, but I believe that killing all of them just isn’t the right solution. Rodrigo “Rody” Roa Duterte, also known as Digong, is a Filipino lawyer and politician who is the 16th and current President of the Philippines. He is the first Mindanaoan to hold the office.At 71 years old, Duterte is the oldest person to assume the Philippine presidency; the record was previously held by Sergio Osmeña at the age of 65.