Drug killings leave agony, savage facet to Duterte’s legacy

Jun 28, 2022, 8:37 AM | Updated: Jun 29, 2022, 6:18 pm
Emily Soriano holds a picture of her 15-year-old son as she recounts how he was gunned down with fo...

Emily Soriano holds a picture of her 15-year-old son as she recounts how he was gunned down with four friends and two other residents while partying in a Philippine slum six years ago during an interview with the Associated Press at their home in Manila, Philippines on June 23, 2022. With Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte set to step down on June 30, 2022 at the end of his turbulent six-year term, Soriano and other relatives, who say their loved ones were victims of extrajudicial killings under Duterte's campaign, are turning to the International Criminal Court after failing for years to attain justice at home. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — When Emily Soriano recounts how her 15-year-old son was gunned down with four friends and two other residents while partying in a Philippine slum six years ago, she weeps in grief and anger like the massacre happened yesterday.

Police concluded at the time that the bloodbath in a riverside shantytown in Caloocan city in the Manila metropolis was set off by a drug gang war. But Soriano angrily blamed four plainclothes police officers and the brutal anti-drug crackdown of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte for the 2016 killings.

“He didn’t lead like a father to the country. He became a monster. His persona and the fury on his face are scary,” Soriano said of Duterte in an interview with The Associated Press.

The thousands of killings under Duterte’s brutal campaign against illegal drugs — unprecedented in its scale and lethality in recent Philippine history and the alarm it set off worldwide — are leaving families of the dead in agony, an International Criminal Court investigation and a savage side to Duterte’s legacy as his turbulent six-year presidency ends Thursday.

One of Asia’s most unorthodox contemporary leaders, Duterte, now 77 and frail of health, is closing out more than three decades in the country’s often-rowdy politics, where he built a political name for his expletives-laced outbursts and his disdain for human rights and the West while reaching out to China and Russia.

Activists regarded him as “a human rights calamity” not only for the widespread deaths under his so-called war on drugs but also for his brazen attacks on critical media, the dominant Catholic church and the opposition. An opposition senator and one of his fiercest critics, Leila de Lima, has been locked up in high-security detention for five years over drug charges she said was fabricated to muzzle her and threaten other critics.

His decision — just months after he rose to the presidency in 2016 — to allow the burial of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the country’s heroes cemetery significantly boosted efforts by the Marcoses to burnish the family name.

The dictator’s namesake son won last month’s presidential election by a landslide. Marcos Jr. succeeds Duterte on Thursday and will govern alongside Duterte’s daughter, Sara, who won the vice presidency also by a huge margin.

Duterte himself has remained popular based on independent surveys despite the drug campaign deaths and his foibles, which endeared him to many poor Filipinos. His aides have often cited his high popularity ratings to deal with critics and the opposition.

The state-run TV network has been running Duterte legacy documentaries, mostly highlighting his administration’s infrastructure and pro-poor projects. In a thanksgiving rally in Manila over the weekend, his supporters waved Philippine flags and cheered him on as he relented to belt a song with an orchestra and popular singers backing him up.

In the dim squalor of Soriano’s shanty, however, an air of indignation and mourning still permeates. A wall brims with cluttered photographs of Angelito, her slain son, along with portraits and a statue of the Virgin Mary and a small card that reads: “End Impunity!”

Soriano pleaded to the ICC to resume an investigation into the drug campaign deaths which was suspended in November upon the Philippine government’s request. She said she was ready to testify before the international court.

“When my son was buried, I promised I’ll give him justice,” Soriano said.

The ICC has launched an investigation into the drug killings from Nov. 1, 2011, when Duterte was still mayor of southern Davao city, to March 16, 2019 as a possible crime against humanity.

Duterte won the presidency in mid-2016 on an audacious but failed promise to eradicate the menace of illegal drugs and corruption in three to six months.

The ICC, which is based in The Hague, is a court of last resort for crimes that countries are unwilling or unable to prosecute. Only one murder case against three policemen accused of gunning down a teenager they linked to illegal drugs has progressed into a conviction so far and Duterte’s opponents have cited that to highlight the difficulty of prosecuting law enforcers and possible Duterte for extrajudicial killings.

A drug suspect, who was gunned down and left for dead by police officers but surprisingly survived the violence in Metro-Manila in 2016, said he still fears for his life and asked that his real name not be used by journalists for security but added he too would be willing to testify before the ICC if its investigation progresses to a trial.

Asked to comment on Duterte’s legacy, he shook his head but expressed hope he and other victims would get justice and possible state reparation.

“I still have a phobia,” he told AP, but added that with Duterte’s exit “it has eased a little.”

More than 6,250 mostly poor drug suspects have been killed in Duterte’s crackdown based on a government count since he expanded the campaign nationwide after becoming president in 2016.

Human rights proponents have reported much higher death tolls. They added that under his two-decade crackdown against crimes in southern Davao city, where he served as mayor, vice mayor and a congressman starting in 1988, more than 1,000 had been killed.

However, Arturo Lascanas, a retired police officer who served under Duterte for many years in a unit fighting heinous crime in Davao, said as many as 10,000 suspects may have been killed in the vast port city on orders of Duterte and the former mayor’s key aides.

Duterte has denied authorizing extrajudicial killings in Davao or elsewhere in the country but has long openly threatened drug suspects with death and ordered law enforcers to shoot suspects, who threaten them with harm.

“All of you who are into drugs, you sons of bitches, I will really kill you,” Duterte told a huge crowd in a 2016 presidential campaign sortie in Manila’s Tondo slum district. “I have no patience, I have no middle ground, either you kill me or I will kill you idiots.”

Lascanas, 61, said he was also ready to testify in a potential ICC trial and provide crucial evidence that can prove Duterte ordered and funded many killings and abductions in Davao.

“The No. 1 physical evidence is myself,” Lascanas, who has gone into hiding outside the Philippines, told AP in a video interview.

“Duterte must be given his day in court to face the consequences of his madness because this is a very dangerous precedent for the next generation of public officials in the country and probably to the entire humanity,” he said.

Lascanas has provided details of many of the alleged killings in a 186-page affidavit and in testimonies he made at the Senate before he left the Philippines in 2017.

A Catholic missionary priest, Flavie Villanueva, said the widespread killings have left many orphans, deprived already-poor families of breadwinners and sparked other complex problems that Duterte was leaving behind.

Villanueva heads a religious center in Manila that provides food, shelter, livelihood training and burial assistance to more than 270 families of slain victims. He said that’s just a tiny fraction of the many families devastated by the drug campaign violence in a largely unnoticed humanitarian crisis sparked by the killings.

Another tragic consequence of Duterte’s populist and coercive style is the blurring of the line between right and wrong that has sparked arguments among people and even within the church, Villanueva said, adding he often asks Duterte’s apologists: “Are we reading the same Bible?”

As Duterte leaves, Villanueva said, “We’re not only broken and wounded. We are even divided as a church and as a people.”

___

Associated Press journalists Joeal Calupitan and Aaron Favila contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Second fatal shooting this month near George Floyd Square

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — One man died and another was seriously hurt in the second fatal shooting this month near the intersection where George Floyd died in police custody more than two years earlier. Minneapolis Police spokesman Officer Garrett Parten said officers found two wounded men with life-threatening injuries Sunday afternoon near the intersection in south […]
17 hours ago
A Wilson, N.C., Fire/Rescue Services firefighter stands behind a sport utility vehicle that crashed...
Associated Press

Police: 2 dead after SUV crashes into N. Carolina restaurant

WILSON, N.C. (AP) — A sport utility vehicle crashed into a North Carolina fast-food restaurant on Sunday, killing two sibling customers, police said. The single-vehicle crash occurred at about 9:45 a.m. at a Hardee’s restaurant in the city of Wilson, around 40 miles (65 kilometers) east of the state capital, Raleigh. The Lincoln Aviator struck […]
17 hours ago
Dead fishes lie on the banks of the Oder River near Brieskow-Finkenheerd, eastern Germany, Thursday...
Associated Press

German minister decries ecological catastrophe in Oder River

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Germany’s environment minister said the mass die-off of fish in the Oder River is an ecological catastrophe and it isn’t clear yet how long it will take the river to recover. Steffi Lemke spoke Sunday at a news conference alongside her Polish counterpart, Anna Moskwa, after a meeting in Szczecin, a […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Hit-and-run on Chicago street leaves 3 dead, 1 injured

CHICAGO (AP) — Three people were killed and another injured when they were struck by a car during a hit-and-run on a Chicago street early Sunday, police said. A sedan hit the four males around 5 a.m. on the city’s South Side and then drove away, Chicago police said. No one was in custody, police […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Trial begins in shooting death of 7-year-old in Atlanta

ATLANTA (AP) — The trial is underway for a man accused of fatally shooting a 7-year-old girl who was riding in a car with her family after a day of Christmas shopping in Atlanta. Fulton County prosecutor Pat Dutcher said in his opening statement on Friday that Kennedy Maxie was struck by gunfire after the […]
17 hours ago
Navajo Code Talker Thomas Begay talks to people prior to the Arizona State Navajo Code Talkers Day ...
Associated Press

80 years later, Navajo Code Talker marks group’s early days

PHOENIX (AP) — It’s been 80 years since the first Navajo Code Talkers joined the Marines, transmitting messages using a code based on their then-unwritten native language to confound Japanese military cryptologists during World War II — and Thomas H. Begay, one of the last living members of the group, still remembers the struggle. “It […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
Drug killings leave agony, savage facet to Duterte’s legacy