Bloody PH drug war catches eye of int’l media
President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, which has taken the lives of more than 600 people in one month, has caught the attention of international media and human rights organizations.
The viral photo showing the lifeless body of suspected drug pusher Michael Siaron being cradled by his weeping wife Jennilyn Olayres “humanized the cost of this war on drugs,” according to a Time report quoting Phelim Kine, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch (HRW).
But Mr. Duterte, in his inaugural State of the Nation Address to Congress on July 25, dismissed the photo, published by the Inquirer on its front page a day before his speech, calling it melodramatic and seeking to evoke “Pieta,” the sculpture of Michelangelo depicting a hearbreaking scene from the Deposition of Jesus.
“You are portrayed in a broadsheet like [the Virgin] Mary cradling the [body] of Jesus Christ. Let’s do drama here,” Mr. Duterte said.
The rising number of people killed in Mr. Duterte’s campaign against drugs also landed on the Aug. 3 front page of the New York Times as well as its international edition.
A Washington Post editorial on Aug. 4, “Death squads in the Philippines,” said Mr. Duterte “is overseeing exactly what he pledged in his campaign: a terrifying surge of extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers, users and criminals.”
“Mr. Duterte’s firebrand response to drugs has been popular. But the street executions are taking lives without trials or proof of criminality. Drug addicts and abusers who need medical attention and counseling are getting a bullet instead,” the Post said.
Out of control?
A CNN report, meanwhile, asked, “Is the Philippines’ war on drugs out of control?”
Media organizations based in the United Kingdom like The Guardian and the Daily Mail had also reported on the killings of suspected drug users and dealers.
The Daily Mail published online a compilation of harrowing photos of Mr. Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.
In a commentary, Washington-based nonprofit policy research organization Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) likewise took note of the killings, citing the Inquirer’s regularly updated Kill List.
“But most concerning are Duterte’s tactics in tackling crime and drugs, a top priority in his election campaign. Some of the fears of human rights advocates have been realized in the spate of extrajudicial killings that has erupted since Duterte’s victory. He has encouraged violent retaliation against any drug dealer or financier who does not surrender, and, in the first month of his presidency, Philippine police reported killing more than 300 people in antidrug operations,” CSIS said.
The New York-based HRW, which has earlier called for an inquiry into the alarming increase in police killings of suspected drug dealers and users in the Philippines, lamented that the drug war packed the already decaying jails in the country.
“The motivations of those who surrender are clear, say authorities: Fear of Duterte’s ‘war on drugs,’ which is linked to hundreds of police killings of suspected drug dealers and users as well as summary murders by unidentified vigilante-style killers,” Kine said in a statement.
“While police are not detaining all of those who turned themselves in, the thousands who are now behind bars are pushing the capacity of jails and detention centers to the breaking point,” Kine said.
Int’l drug agencies
More than 300 civil society groups around the world signed joint letters calling on the International Narcotics Control Board and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), to urge an immediate stop to the extrajudicial killings.
UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov issued a statement on the reports of extrajudicial killings of suspected drug pushers and dealers in the Philippines.
“I join the United Nations secretary general in condemning the apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killing, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms,” Fedotov said.
“Such responses contravene the provisions of the international drug control conventions, do not serve the cause of justice, and will not help to ensure that “all people can live in health, dignity and peace, with security and prosperity,” as agreed by governments in the outcome document approved at the UN General Assembly special session on the world drug problem,” he added. TVJ
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