Pubdate: Wed, 27 Jul 2016
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Copyright: 2016 The Sydney Morning Herald
Author: Lindsay Murdoch


Country 'Drowning' Bishops, UN and Even Vice-President Alarmed at 
Vigilante Violence

The new Philippines government's war on drugs has already killed 
almost 300 people since the start of July - but President Rodrigo 
Duterte wants the authorities to escalate the war.

Mr Duterte shrugged off alarm over the rising body count in his first 
state of the nation address, declaring that drugs were drowning his 
country and human rights were no excuse to shield criminals.

"Double your efforts. Triple them if need be," he said in a message to police.

"We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier and 
the last pusher have surrendered or been put behind bars ... or below 
ground if you wish," he added.

Human rights groups say police data showing that Mr Duterte's 
crackdown has claimed the lives of 293 suspected users and pushers in 
police operations between July 1 and July 24 does not include those 
slain in extrajudicial killings by vigilantes.

There have been many reports of accused drug users and pushers being 
executed and left on streets with cardboard signs allegedly 
"admitting" their guilt.

Mr Duterte, 71, was swept into power in May after pledging to wipe 
out crime with the same "shoot-to-kill" methods critics say he used 
as the long-time mayor of the southern city of Davao. "I will retire 
with the reputation of Idi Amin," he said in a recent speech, 
referring to the African dictator whose 1970s regime was responsible 
for large-scale rights abuses. "I will not let my country go to the 
dogs." Mr Duterte told MPs that 120,000 people had surrendered to 
police in the past month and 70,000 were drug pushers.

"The sheer number and problem will drown us," he said, adding he was 
considering the use of military bases as drug rehabilitation centres.

Police plan to erect a large billboard outside the force's Manila 
headquarters to show a daily tally of drug suspects who have been 
arrested or killed.

But rights groups, many MPs and Mr Duterte's own Vice-President Leni 
Robredo, a social activist, have expressed alarm over the rise in 
vigilante killings and attacks across the country.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Zeid 
al-Hussein on Monday called on Mr Duterte to end the killings. 
Catholic bishops in the predominantly Catholic nation of 100 million 
have also denounced the crackdown. "Can we correct evil by doing 
evil?" Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo asked in a Mass that 
coincided with Mr Duterte's speech.

Bishop Pabillo said there is no proof the victims were engaged in 
drug trafficking. "No one told us that, aside from the cardboards 
placed on top of them," he said.

Phelim Kine, deputy director in Asia for the US-based Human Rights 
Watch, said "as long as President Duterte turns a blind eye to - or 
implicitly or explicitly encourages - summary killings, the 
fundamental right to life of all Filipinos is at risk from 
potentially random extrajudicial violence".

An opinion poll taken late in June showed that 63 per cent of 
Filipinos believe that Mr Duterte will make good on most, if not all, 
of his promises to stamp out criminality, corruption and illegal drugs.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom