Duterte's drug war pushes victims' families deeper into poverty

JUSTICE. PhilRights group calls on the Duterte administration to face accountability in the violent drug war.

Photo by Jodesz Gavilan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippine – President Rodrigo Duterte has broken his promise to help the country’s marginalized sector by targeting poor Filipinos in his war on drugs, a human rights group said.

In its latest report, the Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights), called Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign a war on the poor as victims are often  from low-income communities. 

The effect goes beyond death, said PhilRights Executive Director Nymia Simbulan, as the campaign has pushed victims' families into severe poverty. For every death in the drug war, a family is left behind. 

Isang kahig, isang tuka ang mga pamilya ng mga biktima,” she said on Wednesday, September 19. “Mas lalo pa itong lumala nang napatay ang primary breadwinner ng pamilya.

(These families have a hand-to-mouth existence. It became much worse when their primary breadwinner was killed.) 

In its analysis and documentation of at least 58 extrajudicial killing cases referred to PhiRights by families themselves, the group found that the victims were “male adults within productive age range, primary breadwinners, low- or irregular-wage earners, of low educational attainment, and residents of urban poor communities.”

Ang mga babae ang sumasalo sa mga responsibilidad na naiwan ng asawa nilang napatay (The women take over the responsibilities left by their husbands killed in the drug war). They carry the burden of working and being a single parent," Simbulan said.

Immediate support needed

Members of these families, especially children, face trauma and stigmatization that can haunt them their whole lives.

Simbulan said these families need immediate livelihood aid, as well as medical assistance and emotional support.  

Marami dito (A lot of them) do not have high educational background so you can expect that they will end up with jobs in the informal economy, low income and irregular jobs. For families with an average...of two to 3 children, that is not enough," she said.

The anti-drug campaign has claimed 4,500 lives in police operations alone. Human rights groups, meanwhile, estimate the number to reach more than 20,000, to include victims of vigilante killings. (READ: The Impunity Series)

Duterte and his allies, however, have continuously dismissed criticisms from both local and international human rights groups. The government has also refused to heed efforts for investigations into the systematic killings. (READ: Climate of fear: Justice remain elusive 2 years into Duterte's drug war)

“Hindi normal sa kahit sinong tao ang matuwa kapag may namatay (It's not normal for anyone to be happy if someone dies) especially if there's no concrete evidence that that person committed a crime,” said Virginia Suarez, PhilRights Board of Trustees director.

“We refuse to see them as simply numbers even if the government only sees them as such because to us, they are human beings with faces and families,” she added. – Rappler.com 

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.