Southeast Asia Theater
There was recently a sign that the Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte was going to rein in his murderous police in the face of mounting international criticism of their harsh anti-drug crackdown. It took the police killing of a foreign business executive, but Duterte finally pledged that he would disband and reorganize the National Police narco units. But human rights observers may have rejoined too soon. On Jan. 31—just one day after his announcement of the police overhaul—Duterte made a speech to army generals, telling them that while the police were off the drug war beat the armed forces would have to step in to replace them. Rather than taking a step back from the brink, it looks like the Philippines could be following the grim examples of Mexico and Colombia of turning the drug war into a real war, run by the military.
The Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte may have finally gone too far. It is all too telling that after his anti-drug crackdown has claimed perhaps 7,000 lives since he took power last June, it is the death of a prominent foreign businessman that has finally prompted him to—perhaps—rein in his murderous police. All those suspected low-level drug users and dealers who were killed? Their lives don't matter, apparently. But after rogue National Police officers abducted and put to death a South Korean shipping company executive, Duterte has finally pledged to disband the controversial anti-drug units.
In his latest outrage, the Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte now threatened to actually impose martial law across the country if the drug problem becomes "very virulent." Reuters on Jan. 16 quoted him as saying: "If I wanted to, and it will deteriorate into something really very virulent, I will declare martial law. No one can stop me." In a comment apparently directed at the Supreme Court and Congress, he voiced open defiance of legal norms: "My country transcends everything else, even the limitations."
The Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte has openly threatened to kill human rights activists and journalists who report on his draconian anti-drug crackdown. Now it looks like he may be starting to follow through. Press freedom groups in the Philippines are protesting what they say is the first murder of a journalist in the country since Duterte took office in June. On Dec. 19, Larry Que, publisher and chief correspondent for Catadunanes News Now, a local newspaper in Luzon region (apparently with no website), was shot in the head as he was entering his office, in Virac township. The assailants escaped. Que died from his injuries the next morning.
The Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte—facing international outrage for his bloody anti-drug crackdown—boasted to a group of business leaders he hosted at the presidential palace in Manila Dec. 12 that he "personally" killed drug suspects when he was mayor of Davao City. Bizarrely, this boast came as he argued that the thousands of victims of his drug war have been killed in legitimate police operations. The quote (apparently cleaned up from his choppy verbatim) is reported in the Philippines Inquirer: "I know because...I used to do it personally. Just to show to the [police officers] that if I can do it, why can't you? ...I go around in Davao [on] a big bike and I would just patrol the streets and looking for trouble. [Sic] I was really looking for an encounter to kill."
The Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 3 said that US president-elect Donald Trump has endorsed his bloody anti-drug crackdown—which has claimed an estimated 3,000 lives since he took office in June. A statement release by Duterte's office, the president said: "He understood the way we are handling it and I said that there's nothing wrong in protecting a country." He called the conversation "very encouraging, in the sense that I supposed that what he really wanted to say was that we would be the last to interfere in the affairs of your own country... He wishes me well...in my campaign, and said that...we are doing it as a sovereign nation, the right way." The statement added that Trump was "quite sensitive...to our worry about drugs."
Already accused of carrying out 3,000 extrajudicial executions in his anti-drug crackdown since taking office in June, the Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte has now threatened to kill human rights activists who have the temerity to complain about it. In a speech at Manila's Malacañang Palace on Nov. 28, Duterte said those who accuse him of ordering the summary execution of drug users and low-level dealers should be blamed if the country's drug problem worsened—and suffer the same fate. Here's the quote, translated from Filipino: “The human rights [activists] said I ordered the killings. I told them 'OK. Let's stop. We'll let them [drug users] multiply so that when it's harvest time, more people will die. I will include you because you are the reason why their numbers swell."
In a blow to rainforest conservation in Sumatra, an Indonesian court on Nov. 29 dismissed a class-action lawsuit seeking to force the Aceh provincial government to protect the threatened Leuser Ecosystem in its land-use plan. The Central Jakarta District Court found that the provincial bylaw permitting mining within the Ecosystem caused no material losses to the plaintiffs—despite the fact that the Ecosystem is protected under national law as a "national strategic area." Five million people rely for clean water on Leuser’s forests, which also protect against natural disasters. Deforestation in Aceh's Tamiang district, for example, caused flash floods that displaced tens of thousands of people in 2006.