Even though it seems that the Philippine government’s anti-drug campaign under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has lost media attention, killings continue to take place – even in the context of anti-drug-operations by state security forces. This is emphasized by the documentation of drug-related killings by the DAHAS project of the University of the Philippines: On November 21, 2023, DAHAS reported 472 drug-related killings since President Marcos took office on June 30, 2022. The majority of those killings were committed by state security forces, especially in Davao City, which is currently led by Paolo Duterte.
However, DAHAS’ statistics contradict the recent statement of House Rep. Robert Ace Barbers. In a meeting of the Philippine House of Representatives’ Committee on Dangerous Drugs on October 9, 2023, Barbers described the government’s anti-drug campaign as “bloodless.” House Rep. Janette Garin supported Barbers’ controversial declaration a week later in a statement on October 15, 2023, in which she described President Marcos’ drug policy as efficient and humane.
The Director General of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Moro Virgilio Lazoalso presented current statistics at the meeting on October 9, 2023, and emphasized that the number of drug-related killings in PDEA operations had fallen by 52%. According to the PDEA, the number of deaths fell from 40 in 2020-2021 to 19 between July 2022 and September 2023. The fact that killings continue to take place was not addressed in the meeting, nor were any other current statistics on drug-related killings in the context of operations by the national police or other government agencies asked about.
As early as October 2022, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. announced that there no killings occurred in police operations as part of the government’s anti-drug campaign. In February 2023, when Azurin spoke of only four killings in drug-related police operations in the month of January 2023, DAHAS documented 20 drug-related killings for the same period.
Following a Freedom of Information request by online news outlet Rappler, the PNP acknowledged that there were seven killings in drug-related police operations between June 2022 and April 2023. However, DAHAS‘ documentation already recorded over 100 drug-related killings for the same period.
President Marcos’ political will to actually put an end to the law enforcement approach of the anti-drugs campaign remains weak, considering the police circular that operationalized Ex-President Duterte’s so-called “war on drugs” is still in place and drug-related killings continue at a steady rate.
Photo © Raffy Lerma