PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte has a “perverse” job offer for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) returning home to find themselves unemployed – help him kill drug addicts.
The president reportedly made the joke as he welcomed home the overseas workers from Saudi Arabia where they had been stranded after they were barred from obtaining exit visas.
According to the PhilStar, Duterte was overheard telling an OFW at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), “If you lose your job, I’ll give you one. Kill all the drug addicts.”
“Help me kill addicts,” he told another worker. “Let’s kill addicts everyday.”
The president’s latest off-the-cuff remark endorsing murder has been met with disgust, but little surprise, from rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) who labelled the comments “perverse”.
“Duterte’s latest exhortation for vigilante killings comes as no surprise. He has made repeated calls on the public to kill drug addicts as part of his anti-drug campaign,” said HRW’s Asia deputy director Phelim Kine in a statement Thursday.
On his first day in office, Duterte instructed the public, “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”
He has also repeatedly called on the Philippine National Police to “shoot to kill” and urged them to target suspected drug users and drug dealers with extrajudicial violence.
HRW warns that these provocative statements could constitute “incitement to commit murder” and warned that Duterte’s seemingly targeted campaign may be considered a “crime against humanity.”
“The fact that Duterte’s killing campaign has targeted a distinct population – urban slum dwellers – means the killings could amount to crimes against humanity as defined by the International Criminal Court, of which the Philippines is a member,” Kine said.
The alarming death toll linked to Duterte’s drug war has astounded and shocked many in the international community. It is currently estimated that police and unidentified gunmen together have killed more than 7,000 suspected drug users and dealers. Police claim to have killed 2,690 people, but this number doesn’t include the drug war victims Duterte calls “collateral damage” – including children killed by stray police bullets, according to HRW.
An in-depth report from the rights group found killings by police are not always as they seem, with indications that in many cases police are falsifying evidence to justify unlawful killings.
“Our investigations into the Philippine ‘drug war’ found that police routinely kill drug suspects in cold blood and then cover up their crime by planting drugs and guns at the scene,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at HRW and author of the report.
“President Duterte’s role in these killings makes him ultimately responsible for the deaths of thousands.”
None of this seems to deter Duterte, however, who in the past has proclaimed, “I don’t care about human rights, you better believe me.”
But support for his bloody campaign may be starting waver back home, where his staunchly loyal supporters are beginning to question the excessive violence.
For the first time in his presidency, satisfaction in the Philippines with Duterte’s war on drugs declined, according to a survey released Wednesday.
While the approval rating dropped, it still remained incredibly high for such a controversial measure. Seventy-eight percent of 1,200 people surveyed by Social Weather Stations (SWS) said they were satisfied by the government’s crackdown on illegal drugs, down from 85 percent in a similar poll in December last year.
Seventy-three percent of those polled said they were worried that they, or someone they know, would be a victim of extrajudicial killing. And 92 percent said it was important authorities captured drug suspects alive rather than killed them.
In the wake of the brutal killings, HRW has called upon local Filipinos to no longer tolerate Duterte’s reign of terror.
“The Philippine people should reject Duterte’s drug war and join the growing international chorus for accountability for its thousands of victims.”
Additional reporting by Reuters