Edition: January 1st 2019, Written By: Seringe S.T. Touray
“We are the ninth safest city,” exclaimed then Mayor of Manila (the Philippines) Rodrigo Duterte. “How did I reach that title among the world’s safest cities? Kill them all [criminals]” – Duterte, 2015.
Not too long ago, the Philippines was attractive enough to stand side-by-side with world leaders in photo opportunities. Now, it bears resemblance to a country war-torn by horrendous conflict, with international community relationships reaching an all-time low.
Almost 7,500 extrajudicial killings have been precipitated by police and vigilante anti-drug gangs since Duterte’s presidency, a step-up from his governorship through which he maintained his violent rhetoric.
Labelled The Punisher, then governor Duterte claimed publicly in his crime-torn city that “execution of criminals remains the most effective way to crush kidnapping and illegal drugs.” As such, a UN General Assembly report in 2009 said Duterte did “nothing to prevent these killings,” with his public speech suggesting he in fact encouraged executions of alleged criminals by active vigilante death squads.
President Duterte’s vile rule has been in the making since a violent youth, as Duterte himself publicly stated in 2016 that he opened fire on a bully who'd been targeting his Visayan origin while at San Beda Law College, the Philippines. “But the truth is, I’m used to shooting people,” stated the then Governor back in 2016. As such, there's arguably been no major transformation in Duterte from being sworn into office and now. His violent history was on public display long before being elected.
On the contrary, the Philippines had a good run with its predecessor to the presidency Benigno Aquino III. During his term, Benigno’s global image was embellished with high profile meetings: a signing ceremony with then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New York, the welcoming of President Obama in the Philippines, walking side-by-side with Japanese Emperor Akihito, and meeting Vatican City Sovereign Pope Francis.
In 2017, Amnesty International put Syria, Yemen, and Myanmar among “10 global hotspots for major human rights violations.” Between these countries, close to 500,000 civilians have lost their lives due to violent rhetoric and action. Since the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya tribe in Myanmar, 43,000 Rohingya people are presumed dead. In Syria's conflict, the UN put an estimate of the death toll at 400,000. Additionally, 50,000 civilians have died in Yemeni combat.
Rodrigo Duterte has been in power only since mid-way through 2016, with an upsurge in violence marking his reign. The nation of the Philippines is thus poised to land even higher up on the list of countries brutally eliminating the most basic human rights.