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Standing in Solidarity with People Who Use Drugs in the Philippines

The head of the Philippines police force stated yesterday that more than 1,900 people have been killed in the last 7 weeks as part of a violent crackdown on people suspected of using or trading drugs. A further 700,000 people who use drugs have turned themselves over to law enforcement.

Three months ago Rodrigo Duterte was elected as the President of the Philippines under a hardline, populist campaign against drugs, crime and corruption. Since his election he has exploited the rivalry between the US and China to wage a violent ‘war on drugs’ that that is a cover for a tide of extrajudicial killings.

“[K]ill lists look to be spiralling out of control, with bodies strewn in the most public of places. Bodies bundled up with tape – and labeled “snatcher”, “dealer”, “pusher” or “user” – suggest vigilantes are taking Duterte’s wild promise to eradicate all crime seriously. But the truth of whether the dead were guilty will never be proved, and is barely even questioned. Duterte’s incitement has quickly created a monster, unleashing murderous criminality” (The Guardian).

Duterte has a long history of violence and in his 22 years as a mayor he supported the extrajudicial killings of people suspected of being involved in crime. He also has been accused of using death squads:

“He has previously urged citizens to shoot and kill drug dealers who resisted arrest, and reiterated that the killings of drug suspects were lawful if the police acted in self-defence” (BBC News). 

Pressure from a global network of drug policy and harm reduction organizations has led to strong condemnation from the UN, including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB):

“I join the United Nations Secretary-General in condemning the apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killing, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms. Such responses contravene the provisions of the international drug control conventions, do not serve the cause of justice, and will not help to ensure that “all people can live in health, dignity and peace, with security and prosperity”” (UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fetotov)

In response, Duterte threatened to leave the United Nations.

This Tuesday in New York, activists led by VOCAL-NY, Health GAP and Treatment Action Group (TAG) protested outside the Philippines Consulate as part of a national day of action.

Standing in solidarity with the people of the Philippines against the mass murder of people who use drugs. @HealthGAP

(Photo: Health GAP)

(Photo: Health GAP)

The national day of action aimed to raise awareness of the situation in the Philippines, read the names of those who had been killed and stand in solidarity with the people of the Philippines to oppose Duterte’s brutality.

No more! Stop the murder of people who use drugs in #Philippines! @philippines. @VOCALnewyork

Philippines VOCAL-NY

(Photo: VOCAL-NY)

In addition to the national day of action there are two online campaigns: one by Amnesty International in the Philippines and another by the Drug Policy Alliance petitioning U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to condemn the horrific killings and cut off assistance to the Duterte administration while it commits state-sanctioned killings.

Despite the widespread international condemnation over the extrajudicial killings, Duterte’s brutality shows no signs of slowing. He has threatened to declare martial law in the country if the Supreme Court does not support him and has recently stated, I will crush the drug problem and criminality even if I have to soak my blood. So be it.”

Harm Reduction Coalition stands with people who use drugs in the Philippines and condemns these killings as egregious human rights violations and grave threats to public health and order.

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