Rappler shows how ‘drug war’ violence continues under Marcos

CHEERS TO Rappler‘s in-depth report that established how former President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” continues under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The report underscored the compelling need for accountability nearly seven years since Duterte unleashed the violent anti-drug campaign.

What’s the Story?

On June 11 and 12, Jodesz Gavilan in a two-part report illustrated the personal story of a mother who lost her son to the violence under Marcos, and showed through numbers how the story was part of the bigger culture of impunity from Duterte to Marcos. 

What the Reports Got Right

Akala ko nakaligtas na kami sa gulo ni Duterte (I thought we were safe from the violence that happened under Duterte),” said Carmen, not her real name. The woman, who is in her senior years, shared with Rappler the pain she has suffered over the death of her adopted son, Rolly. 

Gavilan described how “death knocked on almost every door” in the dense communities in Metro Manila during Duterte’s presidency. The frequent police operations made Carmen and her neighbors wish for the violence – and Duterte’s term – to end. She voted for Marcos in the 2022 elections.

In August 2022, Rolly was found dead in a creek, with the police never offering assistance, Carmen said. It reminded her of how the police, operating like “clockwork,” left thousands of Filipinos dead when Duterte was president. CMFR cheered an eerily similar report, also written by Gavilan during the previous administration. 

Carmen’s experience mirrors the experience of other families left behind by the victims, who were mostly male breadwinners. “Their deaths forced widows and children deeper into poverty, aside from traumatizing generations by making violence an everyday reality,” Gavilan reported.

The second part of the report produced a timeline following the statements made by Marcos and other government officials on illegal drugs. Gavilan also examined the data depicting the continuing “drug war” under Marcos, showing up the different numbers published by government agencies and by Dahas, a project of the University of the Philippines’ Third World Studies Center.  

From July 2022 to May 2023, Dahas, documented at least 309 drug-related killings, with at least 100 people killed by state agents in anti-illegal drug operations. On June 14, Dahas published in Vera Files a comprehensive assessment of the ”drug war” violence and concluded that the killings have not stopped,

The Philippine National Police (PNP), after two freedom of information requests from Rappler, responded that only seven people were killed for illegal drugs from June 2022 to present, a lot less than PNP chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr.’s count of 46 fatalities, as presented in a forum in November 2022. 

Gavilan also cited the Commission on Human Rights which documented 13 killings during government operations, clarifying that “the number does not reflect the total number of alleged drug-related killings” it is still investigating.

Gavilan referred to various sources to describe the current situation. She quoted human rights lawyer Catherine Lopez at Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, who pointed to the lack of transparency of the Marcos administration. She described the Marcos “tactic,” the “out of sight, out of mind” approach. 

Sol Iglesias, assistant professor of political science at UP Diliman, explained that “when a successive government continues to shield the crimes or potential crimes of the previous administration, that’s already institutionalizing impunity.”

Why Is this Important?

Gavilan herself said “there will be no let-up in the monitoring of drug-related killings.” More media attention to the ongoing violence is crucial so public can call on the Marcos administration to act on it. 

The violence continues in the context of the Marcos government’s failure to hold accountable police perpetrators; as it has taken the position not to engage with the International Criminal Court which finalizes its decision to investigate these killings as “crimes against humanity.”