MANILA, Philippines – With the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s chief prosecutor warning that anyone involved in extrajudicial killings in the Philippines would be held accountable, President Duterte yesterday washed his hands of the deaths.
Responding to the warning of the ICC’s Fatou Bensouda, Duterte explained that he has openly encouraged police to go after drug suspects and kill them only if they resist arrest.
“Now they say there are already 3,000 people who were killed. Three thousand? Who killed them? I don’t know, but why are they pointing at me, blaming me for those deaths?” the President said in a speech in Basco, Batanes where he visited the victims of a recent typhoon.
Duterte has been up in arms over criticisms raised by the United Nations, United States and the European Union over his bloody campaign against illegal drugs.
Residents stand on tree branches to get a glimpse of President Duterte during his visit to typhoon-hit communities in Basco, Batanes yesterday.
The President and his officials have said he cannot be prosecuted before an international court for crimes against humanity in connection with the drug deaths, amid reports that certain groups are pushing for his prosecution.
More than 3,000 suspected drug offenders and users have been killed since Duterte’s June 30 inauguration. Critics are alarmed at the sheer number whose deaths have been attributed to vigilantes, and the President’s apparent support for the killings.
Feeling insulted, the President berated UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US President Barack Obama and the EU representatives for meddling in local affairs.
“Now, who were those kind of people who were killed? Were they from the government? No, not yet 3,000, we haven’t even reached that far… this is only just the beginning,” Duterte said, referring to the number of killings attributed to his war on drugs.
Duterte added human rights advocates should look at the situation and compare the fatalities to the victims of rape and other brutal crimes committed by drug-crazed individuals.
A multi-billion industry
Duterte stressed illegal drugs in the country are a multibillion-peso industry that he is seeking to destroy.
Computing the P200 per hit of shabu, multiplied by the estimated number of users, Duterte said the shabu industry is a P216-billion industry a year – victimizing families and breaking relationships.
“I’ll give you a simple computation. At P200 per hit for one day, that is P6,000 a month per person times (3-million)… that is P18 billion a month. Times 12, that is P216 billion a year,” he said.
Duterte, however, stopped short of lambasting the United States and the EU anew over the extrajudicial killings.
“Now, they will say that I am threatening the European Union. They are using that ‘this politician is threatening the criminals to death.’ There is nothing wrong in threatening criminals to death,” said Duterte, a former prosecutor and mayor.
“By that statement alone, when you said: ‘I will kill criminals so stop fooling around’. It is a perfect statement, then they want to implicate me for that statement,” he said.
Duterte said he cannot be tried for a supposed violation which is not classified as a crime in the Philippines.
“That’s why I am angry, and I keep on cursing them,” he said.
Malacañang yesterday maintained there are no state-sanctioned killings of suspected drug offenders.
“Drug-related killings, including vigilante killings, are not state-sanctioned. Many of those who died were killed during legitimate police operations, which are currently undergoing investigation as directed by the President,” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said.
He said that even congressional leaders, in conducting an inquiry into the killings, saw no proof that the killings were state-sponsored.
“In any case, the President has articulated that he is willing to submit himself to an investigation before any body,” Andanar added.
The ICC has warned Duterte that he could face prosecution over extrajudicial killings in his deadly crackdown on drugs that has left more than 3,000 Filipinos dead since July 1.
Bensouda said she was deeply concerned over reports of thousands of alleged killings in the Philippines and statements by government officials who she said “seemed to condone such killings.”
“Any person in the Philippines who incites or engages in acts of mass violence including ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing, in any manner, to the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the [court] is potentially liable to prosecution before the court,” Bensouda said.
The Philippines is a member-state of the ICC in The Hague, which has the authority to prosecute individuals for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Duterte then tossed the blame to allies of former president Benigno Aquino III, accusing them of launching a black propaganda campaign against him ahead of the May elections.
He also recalled how his opponents, including Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, “threw garbage” at him, referring to supposed exposés on his alleged huge bank accounts.
“The yellows started it all, then they rode on the issue. Remember that it was not an issue against me. It was only (used) after I keep hitting the (high) ratings. Then the garbage of Trillanes surfaced,” Duterte said.
Rody: Don’t threaten me with rally
Talk of ousting Duterte also persists in the country, particularly in Metro Manila, barley four months into his six-year term.
A group of Filipino businessmen in New York was reportedly hatching a plan to oust Duterte early next year.
In response, Duterte yesterday told Manila residents not to threaten him with a rally.
He said that if he gets ousted in a year or two, he would accept it as part of God’s plan for him or as part of his destiny.
“Huwag ninyo akong takutin ’yang mga taga Manila na mag rally kayo next year paalisin niyo ’yan. Kasi pag napaalis ako, that is part of my destiny (people of Manila, don’t threaten me with a rally to oust me next year. If I would be ousted, that is part of my destiny),” he said in Batanes.
“Hindi ko (alam) bakit ako nanalo (I do not know how I won) without the money and effective machinery. And I would say ‘it’s the Lord. God gave it (presidency) to me’,” he added. – With Giovanni Nilles
A few things all Filipinos should know:
Pontius Pilate also washed his hands. But that did not make him any less responsible and accountable. Too many unlawful deaths are never a good thing. One unlawful death is unlawful and wrong. All nations need to continue to work on that every day.
No nation with a drug problem ever successfully killed their way out of it.
The below three paragraphs come from this article in The Star:
John Collins, the executive director of London School of Economics IDEAS International Drug Policy Project has said, “What we find is that aggressive enforcement often spikes violence by disrupting cartel structures, leading to fragmentation of operations whereby members of cartel go to war with each other for control of the organization or splinter into rival groups competing over turf.”
Enforcement-heavy wars against drugs around the world in the past century are found to have failed in cutting the supply and demand of substances in the long run. Acknowledging that the drug problem persists, experts recommend a holistic approach to managing it.
“The right objective should be to minimize violence in criminal markets and maximize public health. For both of those objectives, the war on drugs in the Philippines unleashed by Duterte is not only ineffective but outright counterproductive,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a Brookings Institution scholar on urban violence and drug policy.
“China is suppressing Hong Kong’s democratic aspirations”
(There is almost no nation on earth with less respect for human rights than China. But the Philippines under President Duterte is on the path to become one of the worst human rights offenders on the planet.)
China’s record on helping people who are addicted is horrible.