MARCH 2, 2019


Philippines Protests Washington Post Article on Drug War

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine embassy in Washington has protested a Washington Post article on unlawful killings and victims of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, saying it “seeks to discredit the Philippines in the eyes of the international community.”

“We take strong exception to the article entitled, ‘This is Manila’ that appeared on the front page of the Washington Post on 25 February 2019,” the embassy said in a statement.

“It is disappointing how this article hides behind the guise of journalism to advance an agenda that seeks to discredit the Philippines in the eyes of the international community,” it said.

The item focused on the killing of Ferdinand Jhon Santos, 44, who worked at a trucking company. His death was believed to be related to the war on drugs as Santos’ body was found floating under a bridge in Tondo on Jan. 14.

It also said that the dead man’s legs and arms were bound with rope. His head was wrapped in packing tape. Chains coiled around his body and were padlocked to a pail filled with concrete.

“Whether the deaths are mostly related to Duterte’s war on drugs is unclear. But what connects them all is a kind of numbed silence,” the article said. “Since President Rodrigo Duterte rose to power more than two years ago, the death toll from his war on drugs has kept climbing. Authorities report that more than 5,000 ‘drug personalities’ have been killed in police operations around the country.”

Human rights groups believe the death toll could be four times that, with many cases either going unreported or carried out in the shadows by government-backed hit squads.

“His is a portrait of one more life broken – and one more death left unexplained – in a city with many such stories,” the article read.

Contrary to what its title hopes to provoke, the embassy said: “The article paints a picture not of Manila, but of a hasty generalization that has no foundation in reality.”

“Unsurprisingly, the article fails to mention that majority of the Filipino people continue to back their government in the fight against illegal drugs,” the embassy said, citing the latest Social Weather Stations survey that shows eight in 10 Filipinos are satisfied with the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.

It also cited a Pulse Asia survey that puts public support for the campaign at 77 percent among Metro Manila residents.

“Reduced criminality is a major driver of public support,” the embassy said.

According to data of the Philippine National Police (PNP), total crime volume has gone down from 675,816 in 2015 to 473,068 in 2018 or a decrease of 30 percent.

“In particular, the incidence of focus crimes such as homicide, physical injury and rape has shown a marked decrease during the same period. The PNP believes that there is a strong correlation between illegal drug use and focus crimes,” the embassy said.

From January 2016 to December 2018, the embassy noted that 9,102 erring police personnel were meted disciplinary penalties including dismissal from service, demotion, suspension, forfeiture of salary, reprimand, restriction and withholding of privileges. More than 7,000 received warnings, bringing the total number of disciplined personnel to 16,391 or eight percent of the entire police force.

“As a nation that cherishes freedom, democracy and justice, and as a responsible member of the international community, the Philippines upholds the rule of law and human rights in all its endeavors,” the embassy said.

“We will continue to engage in sincere, constructive and evidence-based dialogue with our international partners in the pursuit of common goals and mutual interests,” it added.

While many cases like the 44-year-old man remain unresolved, the Washington Post article said that doesn’t stop human rights advocates and families of the victims from believing the killings were done in the name of the police and the war on drugs.

“Extrajudicial killings always happen under this bridge,” said one resident. “This is Manila.”

According to the article, rights groups estimate that there have been at least 20,000 killings and drug-related deaths since 2016 around the country, a rate well below some of the world’s most dangerous places in Latin America and the US “but is among the highest in Southeast Asia.

It said that summary executions are often characterized by bound limbs, taped faces, cardboard signs that read “I am a drug addict” and, in cases like Santos’, bodies dumped in the city’s waterways.

The article said the method is eerily reminiscent of Duterte’s campaign promises to dump drug pushers in Manila Bay to “fatten all the fish there.” (www.philstar.com)

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