Extrajudicial Killings Surge in Philippines as President’s Son Cleared of Trafficking

The Philippines is now infamous for its extrajudicial killings of people suspected of drug offences. Such killings have intensified since President Rodrigo Duterte was elected in 2016. Duterte is famous for his hard stance against drug offences, and he even encourages his people to kill those it suspects of being involved in the drug trade.

Many were thus highly surprised to hear that President Duterte’s own son, Paolo Duterte, was charged with drug trafficking offences. Unsurprisingly, Duterte’s son has now been completely cleared of any wrongdoing following a formal investigation.

Paolo Duterte was accused of being involved with a gang that attempted to import 602kg of methamphetamine into the Philippines via China in 2017.

It’s believed the shipment was worth $125 million. The methamphetamine was hidden in printing cylinders.

As well as the President’s son, the President’s son-in-law was also purported to be a member of the criminal gang involved in this deal. The President’s son-in-law was, unsurprisingly, also cleared of any wrongdoing.

Like his father, Paolo Duterte is also involved in public life since he is the former Vice-Mayor of Davao City.

The charges were dropped due to a ‘lack of basis’.

Office of the Ombudsman’s investigators said ‘the manner through which the discovery and seizure were made leaves much to be desired. Evidence suggests that numerous laws  pertaining to the proper search, seizure, handling and controlled delivery of drugs were violated by the public officers.’

Oddly, the report says Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales took no part in the investigation. Carpio-Morales has become a well-known critic of President Duterte’s violent campaign against illegal drugs. This clash has saw President Duterte threaten to impeach Carpio-Morales, although these war of words have yet to become a reality.

We feel the treatment of Paolo Duterte differs sharply in the way other ordinary citizens suspected of drug offences are treated by those in power. Around 12,000 people have been killed even without trial due to their alleged involvement in drug trafficking since 2016.

President Duterte has been accused many times of fuelling this bloodshed, particularly due to the many public statements he has made telling his citizens to kill those they suspect of committing the offence of drug trafficking and drug use.

The President has even received criticism from the country’s senior Supreme Court justice for ‘going after small-time peddlers rather than big-time drug lords’. The vast majority of people killed by the President’s bloody campaign have been the poorest people in the Philippines living in slums.

For instance, the authorities have been known to carry out door-to-door drug testing in slum areas and then ‘adding’ people’s name to a list if they test positive for cannabis or methamphetamine use in the last seven days. It’s thought that having one’s name added to such a list is a potential death sentence. Many of these people targeted by drug testers live in poverty and many scavenge recyclable materials for their main source of income. It is thus not surprising to hear many people labelling this campaign of terror as a ‘war on the poor’.

Because this brutal campaign focuses entirely on poor neighbourhoods, the rich are unaffected, and this fact is chillingly laid bare for everybody to witness in the investigation that saw the acquittal of Paolo Duterte. The rich clearly benefit from due process whereas the poor are executed based on allegations.