Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his belief that killing drug criminals was necessary to protect his nation’s youth from the methamphetamine addiction engulfing the Philippines, declaring that killing such criminals is “not a crime against humanity.”
Duterte issued his comments in response to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report asserting that Philippine police had engaged in the extrajudicial killing of drug suspects, claiming their own lives were in danger but not providing evidence. The HRW report is the latest in a series from other non-governmental organizations, primarily Amnesty International, accusing Duterte of allowing police to kill Philippine nationals suspected of using or trafficking drugs without providing due process, a violation of international law.
“When you kill criminals, that is not a crime against humanity. The criminals have no humanity. God damn it,” Duterte said in remarks on Thursday. “There will be many more killings. They are really fighting.”
Duterte vowed that extrajudicial killings would continue “as long as there is a drug pusher and a drug lord” active in the Philippines.
His presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella also delivered a rebuke to the HRW report, which concluded with a call for the international community to cease any funding of the Philippine National Police (PNP). “On a call by HRW for foreign governments to suspend assistance to the Philippines based on drug-related killings, we would advise special interest groups to do their homework more diligently before attempting to engage in propaganda,” Abella warned.
HRW claims that over 7,000 people have been the victims of extrajudicial killings since President Duterte took office in June 2016. Its report claims that police have planted drugs on dead bodies after killing suspects they did not have enough evidence to arrest.
“Our investigations into the Philippine drug war found that police routinely kill drug suspects in cold blood and then cover up their crime by planting drugs and guns at the scene,” Peter Bouckaert, the author of the HRW report, told Sky News.
While Duterte condemned the HRW report, he has personally attacked his police force for corruption and misconduct. In early February, Duterte delivered an address before 228 police officers at his presidential palace in which he threatened to duel them all personally, called them “the next victims of extrajudicial killings” for their corruption, and referred to them with his favorite epithet, putang ina (“son of a whore”). Duterte reassigned the officers present to the southern region of Basilan, a hotbed of radical Islamic terrorism, to fight the Islamic State-affiliated Abu Sayyaf. “Live there for 2 years. If you get out alive, you can return here,” he promised.
Duterte also ordered PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa to “cleanse your ranks, review their cases, give me a list of who the scalawags are.”
Duterte has also mobilized Congress in a move that may reduce the number of extrajudicial killings in the country: reinstating the death penalty through a legal process. The Philippine House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that would allow the use of hanging, firing squad or lethal injection against those convicted of large-scale drug crimes. In order to pass the bill, legislators removed a number of other crimes initially signaled for capital punishment, including rape, treason, and “plunder.”
The bill, which enjoys Duterte’s support, now goes to the Senate, where Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III told the Philippine Star he believed senators were evenly split.