drug regulation

The rising body count of the Philippines’ ‘war on drugs’

The Philippines is seeing a surge of extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals and drug users since Rodrigo Duterte assumed office last month.

Here’s a snapshot of what a coalition of Philippines human rights groups describes as a “surge of extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals and drug offenders”.

2.50 am July 14: Unidentified drug suspect #43 | San Juan City, Metro Manila | Found dead, hogtied, face wrapped with packaging tape and with eight sachets of suspected shabu [crystal meth] strapped to the body

5 am July 13: Evangeline Tan, suspected drug user but not on the city’s drug watch list | Dasmariñas City, Cavite | Found dead, body full of stab wounds and hands tied with an electric cord; found on the body was a paper saying, “Wag tularan, tulak ako (Do not imitate, I’m a drug pusher).”

Those fatality reports are from the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s twice-weekly “Kill List”, which tallies the killings of suspected drug dealers and users by police and unidentified vigilantes.

The “Kill List” records a “marked and unmistakable” rise in such killings amounting to 265 deaths between June 30, the day President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office, and July 18.

Official statistics support assertions of an alarming increase in police killings of drug-related criminal suspects. Philippines National Police data indicates that police killed at least 192 such criminal suspects between May 10 and July 10.

That death toll in the two months following Duterte’s electoral victory dwarfs the 68 killings of suspects that police recorded during “anti-drug operations” between January 1 and June 15.

Police have attributed the killings to suspects who “resisted arrest and shot at police officers”, but have not provided further evidence that they acted in self-defence.

Duterte’s rhetoric

The Duterte administration has not put forward any policy proposals on criminal justice or crime control. He has been in office less than one month.

But the government’s rhetorical stance on the upsurge in police killings of criminal suspects shows that the disregard Duterte showed for Philippine law and international human rights standards during his campaign has become the presidential reality.

He had told his supporters on the election trail:

If I make it to the presidential palace…you drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better get out because I’ll kill you.

At a pre-election campaign rally he promised a supportive crowd the mass killings of tens of thousands of “criminals”, whose bodies he would dump in Manila Bay.

At his inauguration, Duterte identified illegal drugs as one of the country’s top problems and vowed his government’s anti-drug battle “will be relentless and it will be sustained”.

Now in office, Duterte has praised the killings as proof of the “success” of the anti-drug campaign and urged police to “seize the momentum“.

Against check and balances

After calls for a Senate probe of those killings, the Philippine National Police chief, Director-General Ronald dela Rosa, on July 11 slammed these as “legal harassment” and said it “dampens the morale” of PNP officers.

That same day, Duterte’s top judicial official, Solicitor-General Jose Calida, defended the legality of the killings and opined that the number of such deaths was “not enough”.

The Philippine National Police will soon make it easier for Calida to track the number of those killings. On July 18 it announced plans to erect outside the Philippine National Police’s Manila headquarters a large electronic billboard that will provide an updated tally of drug suspects either arrested or “neutralised” by police.

Complicit in serious crimes

Official statements calling for what is effectively the extrajudicial killing of criminal suspects could make the officials responsible complicit in serious crimes. And an unwillingness to investigate alleged unlawful killings would be dereliction of duty.

There are already indications that some local politicians have taken inspiration from some of Duterte’s rhetoric during his election and enacted potentially abusive “anti-crime” measures.

Days after Duterte’s May 10 electoral victory, the mayor-elect of Cebu City in the central Philippines, Tomas Osmeña, announced he would pay a 50,000 peso ($1,080) bounty for each “criminal” killed by his police force. Osmeña didn’t specify how police would determine the legality of such killings or the identity of the suspects.

The most sinister articulation of this approach has been the rise of “death squads” in cities in the southern Philippines linked to local police and government officials.

Human Rights Watch exposed in a 2009 report the operations of a death squad that operated in Davao City with the support of city officials and police. Hundreds of people deemed to be “undesirables” – petty criminals, drug dealers and street children as young as 14 – were killed.

Duterte, who served as Davao City’s mayor for 22 years, publicly applauded such killings.

There have been no prosecutions related to the Davao death squad operations and a federal inquiry was called off. There is evidence that the Davao death squad inspired a similar operation in the nearby municipality of Tagum City. This was linked to hundreds of killings and operated as a salaried arm of the municipal government.

Eroding the rule of law

In his inauguration speech, Duterte pledged that his “adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising”. The gruesome daily toll of police killings of criminal suspects demands that he deliver on that promise.

Duterte needs to demonstrate his commitment to due process and rule of law. He should urgently order a credible and independent inquiry into those deaths.

The government needs to make clear that the human rights protections embodied in the constitution apply to all the people of the Philippines – even those that police may consider “criminals”.

Phelim Kine, Adjunct Professor, Roosevelt Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, City University of New York.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.

Play

So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.