war on drugs

Marcos urged to make ‘explicit’ order stopping bloody drug war

Jodesz Gavilan

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Marcos urged to make ‘explicit’ order stopping bloody drug war

PRESIDENTS. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. meets with former president Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang on August 3, 2023.

Presidential Communication Office

'Is President [Ferdinand] Marcos Jr. afraid of former president [Rodrigo] Duterte? Why is he not doing anything about it?' Amnesty International Philippines section director Butch Olano says of the continued drug-related killings

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. needs to double down and make true his rhetoric that his approach to the illegal drug problem in the Philippines has changed significantly. 

Amnesty International Philippines on Wednesday, April 24, said that Marcos has to make a “categorical, explicit, public policy pronouncement” that would stop the violent drug war that continued well into the new administration. 

“[His silence] says a lot, silence means complicity, right?” Amnesty Section Director Butch Olano said during the launch of the group’s annual The State of the World’s Human Rights report. 

“What is preventing the President from stopping the war on drugs or the punitive approach, the killings?,” Olano added. 

There have been at least 612 drug-related killings across the Philippines between July 1, 2022 and April 15, 2024, according to monitoring conducted by the Dahas Project of the University of the Philippines’ Third World Studies Center. Out of this number, 264 were killed by state agents, or members of the police force. 

In its report, Amnesty highlighted the continued killings in the Philippines and the culture of impunity “remained entrenched” as evident in the lack of justice for drug war victims.

There were at least 6,252 individuals killed in police operations alone under Duterte’s drug war, according to official numbers. The death toll rises between 27,000 and 30,000 if victims of vigilante-style killings are included, according to estimations by human rights groups.

Is Marcos afraid of Duterte?

Out of the thousands of deaths, less than a handful of cases led to police convictions. This is why many families are pinning their hopes on the International Criminal Court, which is now investigating drug war killings for alleged crimes against humanity. 

According to Amnesty’s Olano, it is already a big deal if the Marcos government cooperates with the ICC if more developments occur. But Marcos on April 15 said that he will not turn Duterte over to the ICC, adding that the government will not “recognize the warrant that they will send to us.” 

“So our question is, is President Marcos afraid of former president Duterte?” Olano said. “Why is he not doing anything about it?”

The alliance between the Marcos and Duterte factions are on thin ice, following public spat between members of both families.

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Aside from the drug war killings, Amnesty’s report also focuses on the continued rampant red-tagging done mostly by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, as well as the rising number of victims of enforced disappearances. 

“We feel that the President has turned his back on human rights,” Olano said. “That the Marcos administration has failed miserably in its state obligation to protect, respect, and fulfill human rights.” 

Amnesty’s report was launched days after the US State Department released its 2023 country report that stated that “no significant changes in the human rights situation in the Philippines… although the number of incidents of arbitrary and extrajudicial killings and of some other abuses by government agents decreased.” 

It, however, emphasized that “extrajudicial killings, largely by police but also by other security forces, remained a serious problem.”

In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said it is serious in its effort to stop extrajudicial killings, and that they are “taking all necessary steps” to strengthen the justice system to hold accountable those responsible for the abuses. 

“We remind those in charge of the administration of justice that there are no shortcuts in enforcing peace and order,” the DOJ said. “It is of primordial consideration that we, as responsible State enforcers, uphold the rule of law and resolve to protect and promote human rights.” – Rappler.com

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.