2022 PH Elections - News

Drug war, anti-insurgency? Sara Duterte wants ‘strengthened’ law enforcement

Bea Cupin

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Drug war, anti-insurgency? Sara Duterte wants ‘strengthened’ law enforcement

Vice presidential aspirant Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte speaks to supporters during a campaign sortie at the Meycauyan College Annex Multi-purpose Gym in Meycauyan, Bulacan on March 8, 2022. Allan Peter Sinco/PonD News Asia

Allan Peter Sinco/PonD News Asia

The pitch is part of Sara Duterte's bigger promise to continue her father's programs

MANILA, Philippines – Vice Presidential aspirant Davao Mayor Sara Duterte wants to “strengthen” the country’s law enforcement, as she promised to “continue the reforms” of her father’s administration during a campaign speech on Saturday, March 12.  

“’Yan po ang commitment namin, na ituloy ang mga program kontra kriminalidad ng administrasyon ni Pangulong Duterte,” said Duterte, speaking to multisectoral groups in Parañaque City. Sara Duterte is the daughter of incumbent president Rodrigo Duterte. 

(That’s our commitment, to continue the anti-criminality program of the Duterte administration.)  

The dialogue with different groups was the first stop in Duterte’s campaign in the city, home to 346,078 registered voters in the 2022 elections. 

In a chance interview with reporters after the event, Duterte was asked if “continuation” also meant the continuation of her father’s bloody and controversial “war on drugs,” the Davao mayor replied only in vague terms. “Strengthen pa ng ating bansa, ipa-strengthen yung law enforcement ng ating bansa – hindi lang po sa kontra droga, kontra terrorism, kontra criminality lahat po yon, anti-insurgency lahat po yon. Dahil ang gusto po ng lahat ay mapayapang pamumuhay hindi lang po dito sa ating bansa but sa buong mundo,” she said. 

(We want to strengthen law enforcement in the country – not just against drugs but against terrorism, against criminality, anti-insurgency, all of that. That’s because everyone wants a peaceful life, not just here but everywhere in the world.) 

The Davao mayor did not expound on what “strengthening” law enforcement programs means, nor were reporters able to ask follow-up a question. Duterte typically answers only between three to five questions at a time when she grants chance interviews. 

This wouldn’t be the first time Duterte promised “continuity,” nor are law enforcement programs the only thing she’s promised to continue. In previous campaign events, Duterte promised to continue her father’s infrastructure program as well. 

The promise of a “safe” Philippines was the cornerstone of President Duterte’s successful 2016 campaign for the presidency. The pitch was, perhaps, best encapsulated by the promise to end or suppress illegal drugs in the Philippines within three to six months. That promise, of course, was not fulfilled. Duterte’s drug war continued well throughout his presidency – and so did the killings. 

An International Criminal Court (ICC) probe looms over the outgoing president over the thousands killed – either in police operations or vigilante killings – on the name of his so-called drug war. 

Although Sara Duterte did not go into specifics on these anti-insurgency measures, the biggest and most infamous component of President Duterte’s anti-insurgency program is the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The task force, created in 2018, is meant to lead the elimination of decades-long insurgency in the country. It’s been criticized for red-tagging, without basis, government critics, both in and outside of government. The Senate had even moved to slash P24 billion from the task force’s proposed 2022 budget due to its red-tagging activities. 

Sara Duterte’s running mate, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, had previously expressed all-out support for the notorious task force. In a debate organized by SMNI, whose owner has endorsed the Marcos Jr and Duterte tandem, Marcos Jr said he supports NTF-ELCAC but said social problems also needs to be addressed. 

The NTF-ELCAC is designed to be a “whole of nation” approach to ending the insurgency, hence it being a task force. The task force is mandated to also “deliver basic services and social development packages, facilitating societal inclusivity and ensuring active participation of all sectors of society in the pursuit of the country’s peace agenda.” – Rappler.com 

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.