MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday again defended his controversial war on drugs, amid criticism that it is only targeting the poor.
Critics say majority of the victims of the government’s war on drugs are from poor families.
Duterte, however, said killing the poor who get quick money from selling drugs is necessary in destroying the “apparatus.” Besides, he added, it does not make sense for moneyed people to get involved in street-level drug peddling.
“Ang sabi nila, puro mahirap iyan, eh wala na tayong magawa eh. Naghihintay siguro silang mag-recruit ng mga milyonaryo. Wala namang mayamang mag-standby dyan sa lugar mo, sa munisipyo mo,” Duterte said in a speech in Pasay City.
“Iyung talagang mahirap, iyan nga ang problema. We have to destroy the apparatus. It needs people killed. Wala talaga tayong magawa… that’s just how it is. You cannot stop the movement of drugs in the entire country kapag hindi mo yariin lahat.”
International non-government organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently released a report detailing police abuses in Duterte’s war on drugs.
Among the group’s findings is that the war on drugs seemed to have only targeted the poor, and that many of the victims in the cases it examined were mere drug users, not dealers.
“Almost all of the victims were either unemployed or worked menial jobs, including as rickshaw drivers or porters, and lived in slum neighborhoods or informal settlements,” HRW said.
Since of the most of the killings took place in the slums, suspected drug users most of the time find themselves defenseless when policemen, who are sometimes accompanied by plainclothes men, bang on their door and barge into their rooms, in violation of their basic rights.
“The assailants would not identify themselves or provide warrants. Family members reported hearing beatings and their loved ones begging for their lives,” HRW said.
“The shooting could happen immediately – behind closed doors or on the street; or the gunmen might take the suspect away, where minutes later shots would ring out and local residents would find the body; or the body wold be dumped elsewhere later, sometimes with hands tied or the head wrapped in plastic.
“Local residents often said they saw uniformed police on the outskirts of the incident, securing the perimeter – but even if not visible before a shooting, special crime scene investigators would arrive within minutes.”