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Newsbreak Chats: Haunting Duterte with the ghosts of drug war killings

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Newsbreak Chats: Haunting Duterte with the ghosts of drug war killings
Five years on, the families of those killed in Duterte's drug war face yet another injustice: with those left behind unable to pay for the burial sites of their departed beyond five years, the bodies are being exhumed to be thrown into mass graves

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will step down in June 2022, leaving behind a legacy of blood and violence with thousands killed in line with his anti-illegal drugs campaign.

Five years on, while the families of those killed in Duterte’s drug war are yet to see perpetrators brought to court, they face yet another injustice: with those left behind unable to pay for the burial sites of their departed beyond five years, the bodies are being exhumed to be thrown into mass graves.

Remember that those killed in the drug war – 7,000 in police operations, but around 30,000 if including those killed by vigilantes – are mostly poor Filipinos.

Many families have chosen to just keep quiet to save themselves, given the climate of fear and impunity fostered by the President’s open order to “kill, kill, kill” those involved with drugs. Some have been abandoned by friends and neighbors, who initially testified but eventually grew too helpless or afraid to care. What could they do, for example, when they see the perpetrator cops going about their business and their superiors getting promoted? (READ: In Duterte’s drug war, justice is ‘nearly impossible’)

This is why the abuses and injustice of the bloody drug war should not be forgotten along with the President who created the environment for all these. In the 2022 presidential election, the drug-related killings should be taken up as a campaign issue: What do the presidential aspirants intend to do with the dismal record of the national police and the justice department in prosecuting the erring and abusive cops? What do they intend to do once the International Criminal Court orders the arrest of Duterte? How can the government and society help the families of victims rise again?

On Thursday, January 27, Rappler’s investigative arm, Newsbreak, will discuss its latest series, BURIED JUSTICE | How investigations die in Duterte’s drug war, which features the stories of four families who have just exhumed their dead.

Joining investigative editor Miriam Grace A. Go will be Rappler multimedia reporter Rambo Talabong and Catholic priest Flavie Villanueva, who leads Program Paghilom, which gives assistance to widows, orphans, and families of drug war victims. – Rappler.com