The Odd Case For Philippine President Duterte As A Provider Of Human Rights
Headline: The Odd Case For Philippine President Duterte As A Provider Of Human Rights
Author: Ralph Jennings, Contributor
Date: Mon, 9 Jan 2017 22:00:00 -0500
Hours Ago: 0
It’s easy to talk about human rights, but discussion can get dicey when you look for a fail-proof definition or talk about which humans have more rights. What about the Philippine general public, more than 100 million people?
Powerful voices from Europe, the United States and the United Nations say Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is violating human rights by letting police kill drug dealers. Separately elected Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo quit the cabinet last month partly because of those killings, which total between 5,000 and 6,000 according to her office and local media reports.
Some of the dead might have been just druggies or their children, not the hardcore upstream dealers. It’s another problem in the urban Philippine streets already choked in some places by shanties and troupes of child beggars.
But just about every time you talk to common people in the Philippines, the say they feel safer and don’t mind the extrajudicial killings. They want to focus free of fear on getting a piece of the fast-growing Philippine economy. No wonder Duterte earned approval and trust ratings of 86% in October from Asia Pulse. There’s even a cute-ism for extrajudicial killings, EJK. Just half a year ago a lot of those humans hesitated to go outside and pass the shady characters standing on the neighborhood street corner. Drug dealers, along with burglars and even illegally parked vehicles, don’t show up anymore as they did before Duterte took office June 30 on pledges to control crime, you hear again and again.
“Our laws, they are fully implemented right now,” says Clarence Minao, an ebullient Cagayan de Oro dweller who described the changes in her southern city of 675,000 people while hanging out with her fifth-grade daughter in a crowded park. “And I’m happy with the curfew for minors. Before there was no implementation of that. So it’s safer for the kids and for those adults. Because during night time there were a lot of bystanders. So you didn’t know if they were on drugs or doing bad things to you.”
The new sense of safety doesn’t come just from anecdotes. Crime went down overall in Duterte’s first five months in office, according to Philippine National Police figures cited in local media. The country’s index crime volume fell to 55,391 from July through November from 81,064 in the same period of 2015. Not so oddly enough, murder cases rose 51% to 5,970. In the second half of last year, 2,041 “drug suspects” were killed by police, according to the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group.
Duterte resents the critics overseas. He has name-called some and cozied up to countries such as China that don’t give him grief about human rights. Should foreign governments criticize? You can argue for stamping out the drug trade through court trials for dealers and more rehab programs for users of the Philippine drug of choice, “shabu” methamphetamine. That approach preferred in the West would take the Philippines longer to clean up crime but give not-so-hardened criminals and their families a right to keep living – probably better than before.
But if you count street safety as a human right, Filipinos in the cities are suddenly confident they already have it.