Philippines’ war on drugs is ‘steamrolling the rule of law’

Drugs
Philippines
31.08.2016-Family-members-of-those-killed-in-Philippines-drug-war-590.jpg

Family members of people alleged by police as drug pushers and were killed during an illegal drugs 'meth raid', wear masks during a Senate hearing regarding people killed during a crackdown on illegal drugs in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines 23 August, 2016. © REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Harra Kazuo, 26-years-old, is seven months pregnant with her second child. Her eldest is only two-years-old.

This early, the young Kazuo knows that she and her children face an uncertain future because her husband Jaypee Bertes, 28-years-old, was killed by police officers last month as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s all out war against drugs.

Jaypee and his father, Renato, 48, are among more than 1,900 people killed because of their alleged involvement in drugs since President Duterte took office seven weeks ago.

Philippine National Police Chief Director-General Ronald dela Rosa testifies regarding people killed during a crackdown on illegal drugs, at a Senate hearing in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines 23 August 2016.

REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The United Nations, militant groups and human rights organizations have expressed concern on the wave of extra judicial killings, which have been linked to vigilantes, groups that also sprouted during President Duterte's 22 year term as mayor of Davao City in the southern Philippines.

The various groups have been urging the government to investigate the killings but as of this writing, no one has yet been made accountable on the spate of deaths.

Among these deaths, the killings of the Bertes men stand out.

Philippine National Police Chief Director-General Ronald dela Rosa (L) testifies regarding people killed during a crackdown on illegal drugs during a Senate hearing in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines 23 August, 2016. At right, women wearing masks are family members of alleged drug pushers killed during illegal drugs raids by the police.

REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Local police arrested the younger Bertes inside the family’s home in a slum area in Pasay City, in the southern part of the capital region on the evening of 6 July. Home is a cramped room shared by Jaypee and Ronaldo with their families – there are eight of them in all in that small, dark space.

The police said the Bertes men were caught gambling in the neighborhood that night.

They arrested them and found ‘shabu’, slang for methamphetamines, in their possession but Kazuo told a different story.

Speaking under oath, she told a Senate panel investigation into the killings that the arresting officers barged into their home and demanded to know where the drugs were.

The two were brought to the police station, where Kazuo said, they were beaten up.

Policemen accused by a woman of killing a couple who she says are her parents, alleged by police as drug pushers during an illegal drugs 'meth' raid, testify at a Senate hearing in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines 23 August, 2016.

REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The police, however, said that inside the jail cell, the older Bertes tried to grab an officer’s gun. Jaypee, too tried to grab a gun, prompting the officers to fire successive shots at the two and killing them.

Kazuo faced the Senate hearing wearing large sunglasses and her face partly covered with a dark brown checkered shawl. She fears for her and her children's lives because she has been receiving death threats since her husband and his father died.

She told senators that the police version of the events was a blatant lie because the two men did not know how to handle a gun.

A woman wearing mask, whose father and mother were alleged by police as drug pushers and were both killed during an illegal drugs "meth raid", testifies regarding people killed during a crackdown on illegal drugs during a Senate hearing in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines 23 August, 2016.

REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Their neighbors also saw how the officers beat up her husband and his father inside the police vehicle on their way to the nearby police station, Kazuo told senators.

Her husband, a small-time drug peddler had been planning to surrender because he was afraid he would be killed in the anti-drug war, Kazuo also said.

About 600,000 people suspected of being drug dealers or users have turned themselves in to escape being killed since the antidrug campaign began, the authorities have said.

In the meantime, the killings continue. Almost every night, a suspected drug pusher or user is killed.

President Rodrigo Duterte last May, talking to media before casting his vote in national elections.

REUTERS/Erik De Castro

These alleged drug suspects turn up dead in the dark alleys of Metro Manila, their bodies, dumped carelessly for everyone to see the next day and usually plastered with signs: ‘I am a drug pusher or I am a drug lord,’ signs of vigilante-style killings.

Despite the daily deaths, President Duterte stands by his war on drugs and vowed to fight anyone who gets in the way.

He has resorted to shaming his most vocal critic, Senator Leila de Lima who is leading the Senate inquiry, saying that she has an illicit affair with her married driver who in turn, takes pay offs from drug convicts.

Senator Leila de Lima speaks at a Senate hearing regarding people killed during a crackdown on illegal drugs in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines 23 August 2016.

REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The New York based Human Rights Watch said the killings are alarming as it called for a global intervention into the matter.

‘Duterte is steamrolling the rule of law and its advocates both at home and abroad. He has declared the soaring number of killings of alleged criminal suspects as proof of the “success” of his anti-drug campaign and urged police to “seize the momentum”. He has sought to intimidate domestic critics of that campaign and dismissed international critics as “stupid”. Other countries, including the United States and European Union members, should make it clear to Duterte that inciting such violence is unacceptable and will reap potentially severe diplomatic and economic costs, beyond the human one. Otherwise, it’s hard to envision when these killings will end,' said Phelim Kine, Deputy Asia Director for Human Rights Watch.

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