Passport

The Philippine Government Claims That After Killing 400 Drug Dealers, Half-a-Million Turned Themselves In

Some 400 people have been killed in a massive drug crackdown in the Philippines. Now the government claims to have 500,000 people in custody.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - JULY 27:  (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains graphic content.)  An alleged drug dealer and victim of a summary execution with hands bound and his head wrapped in tape lie on a road on July 27, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared a war on crime and drugs after sweeping the presidential elections on May 9 and has been living up to his nickname, 'The Punisher'. Philippine police have been conducting night time drug raids almost on a daily basis with human rights groups and the Catholic church objecting on the use of deadly force as  brutal and excessive. Based on local reports, there has been at least 300 drug-related deaths since the start of July, with around 61 attributed to vigilantes and 70,000 drug addicts have surrendered themselves to the government as Duterte reassured police of his full support if they killed criminals who resisted with violence.  (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)  MANILA, PHILIPPINES - JULY 23: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains graphic content.)  An alleged drug dealer and victim of a summary execution lies dead on a main throughfare on July 23, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. The victim was an alleged drug peddler a claim disputed by his wife and maintained her husband is nothing more than a pedicab driver plying his trade when he was shot in front of her. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared a war on crime and drugs after winning the presidential elections on May 9, 2016. President Duterte has recently been living up to his nickname, 'The Punisher', as Philippine police have been conducting night time drug raids on almost a daily basis. With reports of at least 300 drug related deaths since the start of July, Human rights groups and the Catholic church have objected to the use of brutal force by the Police. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)
MANILA, PHILIPPINES - JULY 27: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains graphic content.) An alleged drug dealer and victim of a summary execution with hands bound and his head wrapped in tape lie on a road on July 27, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared a war on crime and drugs after sweeping the presidential elections on May 9 and has been living up to his nickname, 'The Punisher'. Philippine police have been conducting night time drug raids almost on a daily basis with human rights groups and the Catholic church objecting on the use of deadly force as brutal and excessive. Based on local reports, there has been at least 300 drug-related deaths since the start of July, with around 61 attributed to vigilantes and 70,000 drug addicts have surrendered themselves to the government as Duterte reassured police of his full support if they killed criminals who resisted with violence. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images) MANILA, PHILIPPINES - JULY 23: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains graphic content.) An alleged drug dealer and victim of a summary execution lies dead on a main throughfare on July 23, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. The victim was an alleged drug peddler a claim disputed by his wife and maintained her husband is nothing more than a pedicab driver plying his trade when he was shot in front of her. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared a war on crime and drugs after winning the presidential elections on May 9, 2016. President Duterte has recently been living up to his nickname, 'The Punisher', as Philippine police have been conducting night time drug raids on almost a daily basis. With reports of at least 300 drug related deaths since the start of July, Human rights groups and the Catholic church have objected to the use of brutal force by the Police. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

Recently elected Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s aggressive war on drugs has killed more than 400 people in the past month. And on Friday morning, furious after visiting a town where suspected drug dealers shot a police chief in the chest, Duterte told reporters that he had given police orders to shoot to kill when they come across anyone they believe to be involved in drug trade.

“I’ll really have you killed,” he said Friday. “My order is shoot to kill you. I don’t care about human rights, you better believe me.”

Activists have urged Duterte to scale back his countrywide hunt for drug dealers in order to give suspects an opportunity for due process and a fair trial before they are executed on the country’s streets. But Duterte has not relented.

He promised on the campaign trail that he would halt the drug trade after six months, and in addition to the 400 already killed, another 4,400 have been arrested.

And, according to officials in Duterte’s camp, some 500,000 people have turned themselves into authorities to avoid being violently targeted by the police. Those numbers were made public by Duterte’s administration and have not been confirmed by outside parties.

But if he does have half-a-million people in custody, Duterte likely doesn’t know what to do with them. Some plans have been floated for rehabilitation centers, but they are reportedly still in the works.

Even local politicians are not free from the new government program intended to entirely wipe drugs out of the country. Three mayors turned themselves in this month to avoid retribution.

“I will not hesitate to kill you … don’t think that you’re a governor or a mayor,” Duterte said. “You’ll be the first to go before the civilians.”

Duterte earned his hardline reputation when he served as mayor of Davao City, on the southern island of Mindanao, and ruled by the mantra that killing criminals was the best way to keep the city safe.

After winning the May presidential election, it was clear he would bring that philosophy to the whole nation.

“Double your efforts. Triple them, if need be,” he said in a July speech. “We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier, and the last pusher have surrendered or put behind bars — or below the ground, if they so wish.”

Photo credit: Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola