When new Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte was campaigning for the office earlier this year, he promised voters a radically aggressive get-tough approach to crime. He wasn't kidding. Laura Ling has the story in today's DNews dispatch.
In the three months following Duterte's election, more than 1,900 suspected drug dealers and other alleged criminals in the Philippines have been killed by police or vigilantes. Those killed are often left on the streets with cardboard signs naming their alleged crimes, mostly drug related.
All of this is taking place under the tacit approval of Duterte, who has publicly encouraged citizens to kill drug dealers -- and even drug users -- rather than call the police. The police themselves, meanwhile, are accused of torturing suspects and maintaining secret prisons.
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The Philippines has suffered from a widespread drug problem for many years now. The most problematic illegal drug is a variant of crystal methamphetamine called "shabu," which is trafficked by Chinese criminal syndicates. According to a United Nations report, the Philippines represents the largest market for shabu in all of East Asia.
The United Nations recently called on Duterte to put an immediate stop to the aggressive law-and-order campaign, and human rights groups like Amnesty International have strongly condemned the extrajudicial killings.
Opponents insist that the drug epidemic cannot be solved by punishing the street-level dealers and users. Instead, the federal government should be providing rehabilitation programs for addicts and cracking down on the Chinese syndicates instead.
Change is unlikely, however. In response to international criticism, Duterte recently threatened to simply quit the U.N. And his aggressive campaign is hugely popular among voters. According to one recent survey, an incredible 91 percent of Philippine residents support Duterte and his policies.
-- Glenn McDonald
BBC: Philippines war on drugs: '1,900 killed' amid crackdown
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: World Drug Report 2011
Wall Street Journal: Philippine President Duterte's Crime-Fighting Tactics Come Under Fire
The Guardian: Kill drug dealers and I'll give you a medal, says Philippines president