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Duterte’s Reign of Terror

NEW YORK – Since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office in late June and declared a “war on drugs,” more than 1,900 people have been killed – 756 by police officers and another 1,160 by “vigilantes,” according to police reports as of August 24. Duterte is celebrating the killings and has vowed to continue his anti-drug program so long as he remains president.

The Philippine law-enforcement agencies prosecuting the drug war have thrown out the rulebook and ignored fundamental requirements such as collecting evidence, adhering to due process, or even holding trials. Philippine Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa has even blamed the victims for their own deaths, claiming that, “If they did not fight it out with the police, they would be alive.”

This explanation for the high body count defies belief. In scenarios where individuals are shot while resisting arrest, the number of people who are wounded should – as in military conflicts – far exceed the number of people who are killed. If almost everyone who is shot by police or soldiers dies, this suggests that the shooters are executing people they already have in custody.

Moreover, if culprits were fighting the police, one would expect to see a sharp rise in the number of police officers who are wounded or killed. Yet the police have not reported any increase in officer casualties.