The Drug War in the Philippines Is Back On

By Bryan Le 02/05/18

Operation Double Barrels Reloaded is rebooting Duterte's violent campaign against his citizens accused of drug crimes, already killing 46 people in the two months it's been active.

SAN PABLO CITY, LAGUNA, PHILIPPINES - MARCH 7, 2017: Police officer help maintain order during house fire that gutted interior shanty houses
Chaos and bloodshed are law and order again in the Philippines.

The Philippine Drug War is back on in full force, claiming the lives of almost 50 drug suspects in just the last two months. President Rodrigo Duterte put his bloody project on an evidently temporary hold in October of 2017.

“This is better for the bleeding hearts and the media,” Duterte said at the time. "I hope I will satisfy you.”

But come December 5th last year, Philippine police rolled out Operation Double Barrels Reloaded, the sequel to their first bloody campaign, Operation Double Barrel, which claimed 3,900 lives according to official reports from police. So far, Philippines authorities working on Reloaded say they have enacted 3,253 raids with 46 casualties.

The Philippines drug war lost public support when the police were caught lying about the circumstances in which three tenagers lost their lives, especially that of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos. Police initially claimed the teenager lost his life during a shootout, but video evidence showed officers handing Kian a weapon and ordering him to run. When Kian instead turned around, the officers shot him twice at point blank range. To make things worse, the boy had been misidentified as a drug pusher by a police informant.

Such lies and misdirection surrounding these killings cast doubt on the official numbers from Philippines police. While their numbers say Operation Double Barrel has taken 3,900 lives, the Human Rights Watch says that number could be more than 12,000 if the nighttime killings by vigilante groups are counted. These killings happen with the blessing of Duterte himself. However, the Philippine government rejects the claims made by Human Rights Watch.

“To make such sweeping accusations without being able to support these claims with facts is not just misrepresentation,” said Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cateyano, “It is outright deception.”

But representatives of the Human Rights Watch countered, saying no matter whose numbers are believed, even those of the Philippines authorities, the death toll is too high.

“By any measure, even the P.N.P.’s estimate of drug war deaths is an alarming number of killings that warrant an independent investigation,” argued Phelim Kine, the deputy director for Human Rights Watch in Asia.

Kine believes the reports coming out of the Philippines by any number of groups warrants a United Nations investigation.

However, the United States’ official stance on whether an investigation should happen is comparatively mild.

“There is some encouragement that we are seeing some of our human rights training working,” said James Walsh of the State Department. “And so I would describe the United States as being cautiously optimistic in the trends when it comes to the appropriate way for a drug campaign.”

United States President Donald Trump once praised Duterte’s campaign in a phone call shortly after he arrived in office.

“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” Trump said. “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter