A national survey in the Philippines found that nearly 80 percent of citizens fear being killed as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drug criminals, but nearly the same amount, 85 percent, approve of the drug war nonetheless.
Statistics organization Social Weather Stations (SWS) found in its latest survey, published Monday, that 78 percent of Filipinos are either “somewhat worried” or “very worried” about being killed or having a relative killed in an extra-judicial police homicide. Only 12 percent are “not worried at all,” meaning 88 percent of Filipinos have at least some existing concern about being personally hurt by the police’s new, more liberal attitudes under Duterte towards killing drug suspects.
The survey also found that 71 percent of respondents believed it was “very important” to keep drug suspects alive after arresting them. President Duterte has appeared to disagree with their conclusion, as he has, on multiple occasions, encouraged both police and civilian vigilantes to kill drug suspects, and has claimed to personally have done some of the killing himself.
In a bizarre twist, Philippine respondents also appeared highly satisfied with the manner in which Duterte was handling the drug war. Of those asked, 85 percent said they were either “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with “the performance of the administration in its campaign against illegal drugs,” up one percentage point from September.
The Philippine Star notes nearly 90 percent of respondents answered that they believed the presence of drug crime in their communities had diminished since Duterte took office in June, indicating why they may support the violent crackdown on drugs while also being concerned about getting swept up in police operations.
Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, told the Star that he was “not surprised” about the high levels of simultaneous support and fear surrounding the drug war. “I am not surprised with the conundrum that people acknowledge that the anti-drug campaign is fitting, so they allow it. But they would like less killings,” he told the newspaper.
While Duterte himself has encouraged extrajudicial killings, promising “1,000 pardons a day” for police who kill drug suspects, the presidential palace responded to the fears highlighted in the new poll by downplaying the violent aspects of the drug war. “Rest assured that the Duterte administration respects the law and upholds the basic rights of our people, regardless of beliefs and political persuasion,” Martin Andanar, Duterte’s press secretary, told reporters on Monday.
Duterte’s attitudes towards eradicating drug crime have prompted global concern for respecting human rights in the Philippines. Duterte has responded to concerns voiced by United States, the European Union, and the UN almost exclusively with profanity. He has called U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg an “annoying homosexual,” threatened to “whack in the head” any UN observer that stepped foot in the country, and replied to EU concerns with a simple “fuck you.”
As the Christmas season approaches the majority Catholic country, however, Philippine police leaders have taken the opportunity to attempt to reach out to those alarmed by their raids on drug suspects’ homes, including prominent political leaders. “Sorry Lord, forgive us, but all I can say is we’re doing this not for ourselves or for whatever purpose – not for our personal gain, but for the future of our nation,” Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa prayed on Monday at the police’s official Christmas party.
“The Christmas gift we’re wishing for policemen is prayer for the Lord’s forgiveness. Even if those who have died are bad, they are still people, they are still human beings and they still deserve to live and we have no right to take their lives,” dela Rosa said.