The Philippines' bloody-minded war on drugs continues apace, the Filipino trade publication Business World reported last week. According to the journal, "summary killings involving shady characters are spreading all over the region" of Davao City, where death squads popularly linked to police, businessmen, and local officials have been operating with impunity since the late 1990s. More than 60 people have been slain by the death squads in Davao City alone this year, according to local media, while officials in Tagum City in nearby Davao del Norte have reported 26 similar executions since May.
Business World reported that civil organizations in Davao del Norte rallied Tuesday to condemn the killings. The rally was called to "put emphasis on respect for life and human rights and denounce the senseless killings perpetrated by a shadowy death squad," organizers said in a statement. The rally is the latest manifestation of mounting criticism of the city government and local law enforcement agencies for their inability or unwillingness to stop the killings. No death squad member has been arrested in Davao City despite years of killings. Those killed are almost always on lists of persons "wanted" by the Philippines Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who is widely rumored to be behind the death squads, has repeatedly denied the charge, but his most recent comments once again failed to quell the notion that he approves. In his weekly television address, Duterte warned drug dealers to "start swimming" as far as Indonesia if they wanted to survive and called critics of the death squads "reactive idiots." Instead of criticizing the death squads, said Duterte, critics should instead help drug offenders by getting them to turn themselves in.
"These reactive idiots, I may call them, don't just sit there and wait for the next victim to fall," said Duterte. "Seek them out and help reform them or warn them to leave the city," he added, clearly implying that drug offenders would be killed. "Get the list of wanted persons from the PDEA, it's public, go to these persons and tell them to reform. You can't do anything just by shouting every time some drug addict is killed," he said. Still addressing his critics, Duterte added that the death squads are "much better than you because they did something to the problem."
The killings have support, especially among law enforcement and the business community. Businessmen are unafraid to tell Philippine media they support the murder of alleged drug criminals. "We're more confident to operate in a peaceful Davao, free from criminals, drug syndicates and terrorists," businessman Robert Te told the Mindanao Times. U Ching Siong, Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce regional director, added that the summary executions have created a good atmosphere for the business sector in the city and boosted the confidence of businessmen.