Rights group wary anew after ex-President Duterte’s son launches own ‘drug war’ in Davao City

Davao City Mayor Sebastian "Baste" Duterte during his State of the City Address (Soca) at the Sangguniang Panlungsod on July 28, 2023
Davao City Mayor Sebastian "Baste" Duterte during his State of the City Address (Soca) at the Sangguniang Panlungsod on July 28, 2023 (Photo courtesy of Davao City Information Office)

NEW YORK-based Human Rights Watch expressed “deep concern” after Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte, son of the former firebrand president Rodrigo Duterte, declared his own “war against drugs” in Davao City in the Catholic-majority Philippines on Friday, March 22, 2024.

“Needless to say, and as we have seen during the time of his father Rodrigo as president, the ‘drug war’ has been catastrophic, particularly for poor Filipinos often targeted by the authorities in bloody drug raids,” said Carlos Conde, senior researcher of Human Rights Watch.

“Mayor Duterte’s ‘drug war’ will only worsen the already dire human rights situation in his city,” Conde told Sunstar Philippines in a statement on Monday, March 25.

According to Conde, Davao City “has consistently topped the monitoring by the University of the Philippines’ Dahas on drug-related killings under the Marcos administration.”

“The national government should step in to stop the carnage in Davao City and elsewhere. The Department of the Interior and Local Government, as well as the Philippine National Police, should rein in Mayor Duterte and ensure that his ‘drug war’ does not violate the rights of people,” Carlos said.

“President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should be alarmed by this and should take action by rescinding the government’s official policies legitimizing the ‘drug war’ and order the police, whether in Davao City or elsewhere, to stand down,” added Conde.

Dahas Project, a running count of the reported drug-related killings in the Philippines by the Third World Studies Center of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, reported that from March 8 to 15, 2024, 10 died in Marcos's drug war.

“With 10 killings each since January 2024, Davao del Sur and Negros Occidental are the top hotspots, followed by National Capital Region and Cebu with nine each. Of the 75 killings so far this year, 26 were perpetrated by state agents,” wrote Dahas Project on its latest count of reported drug-related killings in the Philippines on X, formerly Twitter, on March 19.

Davao City, which has an estimated population of 1.9 million people, is the largest city in Davao del Sur province.

For more than two decades, the elder Duterte launched a hard stance against drugs and criminality in the city.

During his term as president from 2016-2022, he also made “drug war” his flagship campaign.

The “bloody” war against drugs resulted in the alleged killing of more than 6,000 individuals in police operations.

However, human rights groups said the victims of Duterte’s “drug war” were estimated to have reached between 27,000 and 30,000 due to the other reports on vigilante-style assassinations, which targeted urban poor.

The “drug war” caused the International Criminal Court to launch its investigation against the erstwhile president.

“He [Marcos Jr.] risks embarrassing himself before the international community, which has been willing to cut him some slack on human rights if he allows Mayor Duterte not just to continue but intensify this brutal policy,” Conde said.

On March 22, Duterte’s son warned drug personalities to leave the city.

“Pack your things and get out! If you will not leave, if you will not stop, I will kill you,” Mayor Duterte told reporters during the turnover ceremony of a new Davao City police director on March 22.

“I hereby declare a campaign that the city is at war against drugs,” he added.

Following Duterte’s public declaration against those involved in illegal drugs, at least five suspect drug personalities were reportedly killed in police operations in Davao City, as of March 24. (SunStar Philippines)


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