Southeast Asia

Killings of ecological defenders rise in Philippines

Named the most dangerous country in the world for land and environmental defenders, the Philippines has become an even deadlier place for activists in 2019, with 46 recorded deaths so far this year, according to the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment. The same organization recorded 28 killings of land and environmental defenders in 2018. Global Witness, an environmental watchdog, tallied 30 such killings in the Philippines that year and designated the country the most dangerous in the world for defenders based on sheer number of deaths. Small farmers and agricultural workers accounted for the majority of the deaths recorded by Kalikasan PNE this year with 29, or 63%. This was followed by forest rangers or government officials involved in environmental oversight, at 35%. Next were members of the Philippines’ indigenous peoples at 20%, and finally lawyers and church workers at four percent. (Image of man from the Manobo tribe of Mindanao via Mongabay)

Southeast Asia

Philippines: convictions in Maguindanao massacre

More than a decade after 58 people were killed in the worst case of election-related violence in Philippine history, a court in Quezon City found Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan guilty of overseeing the November 2009 massacre at Maguindanao. They were sentenced to 40 years without parole. The pair were convicted on 57 counts of murder in the attack on a convoy that included journalists covering an opposition candidate for the governorship of Maguindanao province. Police said 58 were killed in the massacre, but the body of one victim was never found. Their father, then-incumbent governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., was arrested in connection with the case and died in prison while awaiting trial in 2015. The court sentenced a further 15, including more Ampatuan family members and police officials, to between six and 10 years as accessories to the crime. (Photo: Relatives of victims burn portraits of Ampatuan clan members during visit to massacre site. Credit: MindaNews)

Southeast Asia

Autonomy vote at issue in Sulu cathedral bombing?

Twin explosions left at least 20 dead and some 80 wounded at the cathedral in Jolo, capital of Sulu province in the restive southern Philippine island of Mindanao. The first blast went off inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel as Sunday mass was about to start. This was followed seconds later by another blast in the cathedral's parking area. The attack came just days after the Bangsamoro Organic Law was approved by voters in the region, creating a new Muslim-led autonomous government. The new Bangsamoro autonomous region replaces the weaker Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Of the five provinces in the autonomous region, the only one to reject the BOL was Sulu. (Photo via PhilStar)

Southeast Asia

Philippine paradox: martial law, medical marijuana

In flagrant violation of the Philippine constitution, President Rodrigo Duterte extended martial law in Mindanao for another year. Simultaneously, he announced a return of the National Police to drug enforcement after they were removed due to outrageous human rights abuses. But opposition lawmakers are trying to put the breaks on the militarization, and have even introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana. (Photo: Anakpawis)

Southeast Asia

Duterte fudges police death toll to justify drug war

The Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte—trying to justify sending the National Police back into drug enforcement after he was pressured to withdraw them by a public outcry over their slaying of innocent civilians—has been caught in a lie. He stated that 300 police officers have been killed in anti-drug operations since he took office in June 2016—this by way of providing a rationale for the police killing thousands of Filipinos in this same period. But official figures from the Philippine National Police put the number at 86. Even if one adds army troops killed batting Islamist militants in Mindanao, the number is only 250. (Photo: Anakpawis)

Southeast Asia

Duterte backtracks on drug war de-escalation —surprise!

Just weeks after the Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte won rare favorable headlines by pledging to pull the National Police out of his ultra-deadly "drug war," he's already threatening to send them back if the "drug problem becomes worse again." Not coincidentally, the threat comes just as Trump green-lighted Duterte's campaign of mass murder, meeting with him at the Manila ASEAN summit and issuing only praise—with not a peep about human rights. 

Southeast Asia

Duterte drug war de-escalation: how real?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte won rare favorable international headlines when he said he would pull his National Police force out of his brutal "war on drugs," which has now reached the point of mass murder. The move came after public outrage over the police slaying of an unarmed youth. But Amnesty International notes that he made such promises after a similar outrage a few months back—and nothing changed. 

Southeast Asia

Philippines: Duterte threatens to kill his own son

Philippine President Rodirgo Duterte—whose "war on drugs" has now reached the point of mass murder—was put on the hot spot when his own son was called to testify before a Senate hearing on drug corruption. He thundered that he had ordered the National Police to kill his son like any other drug suspect. And amid the relentless police killings, he gutted the country's official human rights office, reducing its budget to an insulting $20 a year.

Southeast Asia

Philippines: Duterte in bed with narco gangs?

Is it really possible that Philippine President Rodirgo Duterte—who has unleashed a "war on drugs" that has now reached the point of mass murder—is himself mixed up in the drug trade? With the Philippine Senate now launching multiple investigations into the drug-related violence, charges of involvement in the narco trade have reached some of Duterte's closest family members.

Southeast Asia

Duterte still defiant on draconian drug war

The Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte met in Manila with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and came away gloating that the new administration in Washington is unconcerned with his blood-drenched "war on drugs," that has left perhaps 8,000 dead since he took office just over a year ago. Duterte sneered to reporters at a press conference after the Tillerson meeting: "Human rights—you go there and you might have a bomb dropped on your head." That's no joke coming from a regime already accused of killing journalists.

North America

Charlottesville and Barcelona: fearful symmetry

Trump's disparate reactions to the similar attacks in Charlottesville and Barcelona provide a study not only in double standards, but (worse) the president's actual embrace of racist terror. While saying there were "good people" on the side that was flying the Nazi flag and committed an act of terror in Virginia, he used the attack in Spain as an opportunity to unabashedly call for war crimes against Muslims.

Southeast Asia

US broaches air-strikes on ISIS in Philippines

On the heels of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's Manila meeting with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, NBC News reports that the Pentagon is considering a plan for the US military to conduct air-strikes on ISIS targets in the archipelago nation. The account quotes two unnamed defense officials who told the network that "authority to strike ISIS targets…could be granted as part of an official military operation" likely to be named in the coming days. The strikes would probably be conducted by armed drones.