Pubdate: Sun, 28 Aug 2016
Source: Philippine Star (Philippines)
Copyright: Associated Press


(AP) - On the day he was sworn into office, President Rodrigo Duterte 
went to a Manila slum and exhorted residents who knew any drug 
addicts to "go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents 
to do it would be too painful."

Two months later, nearly 2,000 suspected drug pushers and users lay 
dead as morgues continue to fill up. Faced with criticism of his 
actions by rights activists, international bodies and outspoken 
Filipinos, including the top judge, Duterte has stuck to his guns and 
threatened to declare martial law if the Supreme Court meddles in his work.

According to a survey early last month, he has the support of nearly 
91 percent of Filipinos. The independent poll was done during his 
first week in office, and no new surveys have come out since then.

National police chief Ronald dela Rosa told a Senate hearing this 
week that police have recorded more than 1,900 dead, including 756 
suspected drug dealers and users who were gunned down after they 
resisted arrest. More than 1,000 other deaths are under 
investigation, and some of them may not be drug-related, he said.

Jayeel Cornelio, a doctor of sociology and director of Ateneo de 
Manila University's Development Studies Program, said he suspects 
only a few of Duterte's supporters are disillusioned by the killings 
and his rhetoric because voters trust his campaign promise to crush 
drug criminals. They also find resonance in his cursing and 
no-holdsbarred comments.

Duterte's death threats against criminals, his promise to battle 
corruption, his anti-establishment rhetoric and gutter humor have 
enamored Filipinos living on the margins of society. He 
overwhelmingly won the election, mirroring public exasperation over 
the social ills he condemns.

Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia has said the killings "may 
be a necessary evil in the pursuit of a greater good," a sentiment 
echoed by a deluge of comments by Duterte supporters in social media 
deriding his critics and defending the brutal war on drugs.

"The killings are OK so there will be less criminals, drug pushers 
and drug addicts in our society," said Rex Alisoso, a 25-year-old 
cleaner in Manila. He said people have gotten used to the way Duterte 
talks and voted for him knowing his ways.

Kim Labasan, a Manila shopkeeper, said she does not like Duterte's 
constant swearing, his "stepping on too many toes" and his decision 
to allow late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to be buried in the heroes' 
cemetery. But she supports the anti-drug war despite the rising death 
toll because, she said, she has personally seen the effects of drugs. 
Addicts in her hometown north of Manila have ended up with "poisoned 
brains" and even robbed her family's home.

"A battle of moralities is being waged right now by this 
administration - before, if you were a human rights advocate you are 
a hero of the country, now you are seen as someone who can destroy 
the country," Cornelio said.

He said that Duterte fosters "penal populism" - identifying a 
particular enemy, a criminal, and then hunting him down to death. 
Because the results are visible, tangible and people feel it, "it 
becomes more important than many other things to the ordinary person."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom