MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte’s trail is one that is bloody.
Duterte’s violent rhetoric – publicly threatening suspected drug personalities, activists, and even journalists, among others – and problematic government policies have placed the Philippines under a climate of fear and culture of impunity.
His words do not stay as mere words. His orders are the rallying signal of his allies as they carry out his war on drugs, the fight against activists, as well as threats against the media, among others. Thousands have ended up dead since 2016, while countless others remain fearful for their lives.
As we end 2021 – six months before a new administration steps in – let us remember the ones who lost their lives under Duterte, a period tagged critics as having the worst human rights crisis in the country post-Martial Law.
DRUG WAR VICTIMS
Data from the government shows that 6,215 individuals were killed in police anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016, to October 31, 2021. This number does not include victims of vigilante-style killings, which human rights groups estimate to be between 27,000 and 30,000.
The extent of Duterte’s violent war on drugs is still hard to determine, as the government has enacted policies that make it hard for independent agencies to keep track of the real numbers. It also continues to sideline stakeholders such as the Commission on Human Rights, refusing to grant them access to important case folders.
In September 2020, however, Rappler was able to obtain data that showed 7,884 drug suspects had been killed by the police since Duterte assumed office until August 31, 2020.
Duterte’s war on drugs, as well as the killings in Davao City from 2011 to 2016, is now the subject of an investigation by the International Criminal Court.
Read Rappler’s coverage of the war on drugs in 2021:
- In Duterte’s drug war, justice is ‘nearly impossible’
- Killing as state policy: 10 things the ICC says about Duterte’s drug war
- Investigating Duterte’s drug war using data: It’s ‘state-sponsored murder’
- How the Duterte government underreports drug war killings
- ICC probe into killings under Duterte cements need for stronger UN action
- DOJ dents drug war: PNP did not follow rules in nanlaban cases
- ICC asks Duterte government for proof of genuine drug war probes
- (Part 1) Duterte government’s ‘rubbish’ files stall SC drug war case
- (Part 2) Incomplete submissions to Supreme Court show poorly documented drug war
- (Part 3) Vigilantes able to run amok in Bulacan
- [PODCAST] ‘Nanlaban’: Ang paulit-ulit na salaysay ng mga pulis
- [PODCAST] Law of Duterte Land: Investigating Duterte’s drug war using hard data
- [PODCAST] Kriminal: The making of Duterte’s drug war
- [PODCAST] KRIMINAL: The PNP and PDEA’s trust problem
- [PODCAST] Kriminal: Regrets from creating the drug war
ACTIVISTS, GRASSROOT ORGANIZERS, AND HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
Human rights defenders, activists, and grassroot organizers continue to bear the brunt of Duterte administration’s threats and harassment.
The government continues to blur the line between activists and communist rebels. National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and its supporters, supported by massive state resources, continue to red-tag almost anyone who criticizes the administration.
As of August 2021, rights group Karapatan documented 421 incidents of killings since July 2016. There are also least 504 recorded cases of frustrated killings, while 1,138 activists have been arrested and detained over the past five years.
Read Rappler’s coverage of the fight of activists and human rights defenders under Duterte in 2021:
- New war: How the propaganda network shifted from targeting ‘addicts’ to activists
- Leaders lost: The 9 activists killed by Duterte gov’t on ‘Bloody Sunday’
- Under Duterte, Calabarzon activists fight to stay alive
- EXPLAINER: How to address problem of search warrants vs activists
- From UN reports to Congress: The many times ‘red-tagging’ was used
- Raising a baby in jail, activist Amanda Echanis chooses hope
- FAST FACTS: Who is Renalyn Tejero, the Lumad activist arrested in Cagayan de Oro?
- Quiboloy’s news group repeatedly red-baits Makabayan bloc during COC filing
- Principles and compromises: How Makabayan survived under Duterte
- Until the end, union leader Dandy Miguel fought for workers’ rights
- [PODCAST] KRIMINAL: Living with a red tag in the Philippines
- [PODCAST] Law of Duterte Land: The law of NTF-ELCAC
- [PODCAST] Is Duterte responsible for ‘Bloody Sunday’?
- [PODCAST] Lahat na lang ay sinasabing komunista sa ilalim ni Duterte
- Bloody Sunday ‘chase’? Cops search home, kill activist in another town
- Rappler Talk: Duterte’s crackdown on activists
- Duterte government moves to get activists out of party list
- Labor activists after leaders’ killing: Hope is what’s left for us
- Prelude to 2022? Thousands of grassroots organizers arrested, hundreds killed
- Calls grow louder for SC to step in amid killings. Will justices listen?
- EXPLAINER: DOJ’s AO 35 panel probing Calabarzon killings and mistrust
JOURNALISTS AND MEDIA WORKERS
Twenty-two journalists and media workers have been killed since Duterte rose to power in 2016. Based on the data, three journalists were killed in 2021 alone.
Here are the journalists and media workers killed under the Duterte administration, according to the tally of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines:
- Apolinario Suan Jr. – July 14, 2016
- Larry Que – December 2016
- Mario Cantaoi – January 6, 2017
- Marlon Muyco – February 17, 2017
- Joaquin Briones – March 13, 2017
- Leo Diaz – August 6, 2017
- Rudy Alicaway – August 7, 2017
- Christopher Lozada – October 24, 2017
- Edmund Sestoso – April 30, 2018
- Carlos Matas – May 12, 2018
- Dennis Denora – June 7, 2018
- Joey Llana – July 20, 2018
- Eduardo Dizon – July 10, 2019
- Benjie Caballero – October 30, 2019
- Dindo Generoso – November 7, 2019
- Rex Cornelio Pepino – May 5, 2020
- Jobert Bercasio – September 14, 2020
- Virgilio Maganes – November 10, 2020
- Ronnie Villamor – November 14, 2020
- John Heredia – May 2, 2021
- Orlando Dinoy – October 30, 2021
- Jesus “Jess” Malabanan – December 8, 2021
Read Rappler’s coverage of pressing media issues in 2021:
- PH slips further in World Press Freedom index
- Duterte among global ‘Press Freedom Predators’ in 2021
- With press freedom under attack, PH journos amplify call to fight back
- Gunman kills journalist inside Davao del Sur apartment
- Journalist Jess Malabanan shot dead in Samar
- Remembering Dumaguete radio reporter Rex Cornelio
- Amid the ‘most difficult time,’ journalists call for solidarity
- Number of jailed journalists reached global high in 2021, at least 24 killed for their coverage
- 12 years after Maguindanao Massacre: ‘Forgetting is not an option’
- ‘Journalism is a profession worth taking risks for’
- [OPINION] Press freedom, a public good to be protected
- 6 things you can do to support press freedom in the Philippines
LAWYERS, PROSECUTORS, AND JUDGES
There were 65 lawyers, prosecutors, and judges killed from July 2016 to September 15, 2021.
The total number is collated by Rappler based on monitoring by various sources, including the Supreme Court, Department of Justice, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, and the Free Legal Assistance Group.
Their numbers vary because there are victims excluded in the counting of some groups as preliminary investigation showed their deaths were allegedly not work-related.
Read Rappler’s coverage of attacks against lawyers and members of the judiciary in 2021:
- LIST: Judges, prosecutors, lawyers killed under Duterte gov’t
- Lawyer in South Cotabato shot dead outside house, 65th killed under Duterte
- Half of lawyer killings since 2016 were work-related – FLAG
- Amid pressure, Supreme Court condemns lawyer killings and vows changes
- IBP ‘appalled’ by ‘alarming increase’ under Duterte
- Attacks vs lawyers surge under Duterte, new data shows
- Rappler Talk: Your Honors, they are killing lawyers
- Slain South Cotabato lawyer defended the poor in court for free
- Who is Rex Fernandez, the slain Cebuano human rights lawyer?
- Duterte asked: Why the silence on lawyer killings?
- PNP, IBP agree to address lawyer killings
- Fernandez slay sends chills, angers lawyers across Mindanao
- Lawyer killings cast a shadow on Peralta’s retirement
- Ex-VP Binay: Lawyers more scared under Duterte than Marcos
- Calbayog police ask court for list of alleged communists’ lawyers
- Lawyer in anti-terror law petition stabbed in Iloilo
- De Lima to Supreme Court: So many lawyers had to die before you spoke
MAYORS AND VICE MAYORS
The number of slain local chief executives in the Philippines continues to increase more than five years since Duterte took office.
As of December 19, 2021, based on monitoring by Rappler, 10 mayors and 17 vice mayors were killed since July 2016, for a total of 27. Five of these killings were during the COVID-19 pandemic, four of which were in 2021 alone.
Read Rappler’s coverage of attacks against local officials:
- LIST: Mayors, vice mayors killed under Duterte gov’t
- Gunmen kill Basilan mayor, aide, hurt 2 others in Zamboanga attack
- Killing of Ilocos Norte town councilor worries governor
- NBI: Calbayog mayor Aquino killed in ambush, not shootout
- Shot dead: North Cotabato mayor in Duterte drug list
- TF Basilan, Basilan leaders say slain mayor longed for peace
- BARMM leaders decry Basilan mayor’s slay, urge police to speed up probe
- Ex-mayor in Duterte drug list shot dead in Cagayan
- Samar congressman pushes House probe into ‘senseless murder’ of Calbayog City mayor
- Ex-Maguindanao mayor on drug watch list killed after arrest in Batangas port
- Robredo on Mayor Aquino’s death: ‘Kill, kill, kill’ rhetoric enables murder
– with reports from Jairo Bolledo, Lian Buan, Dwight de Leon, Jodesz Gavilan, and Rambo Talabong/Rappler.com