During an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC on May 4, 2023, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. acknowledged that human rights abuses related to the so-called “war on drugs” took place under the previous government. President Marcos expressed that ex-President Duterte had primarily focused on “enforcement” of the anti-drug campaign to eliminate illegal drugs. Marcos explained that “it could be said that there were abuses by certain elements in the government and that has caused some concern about the human rights situation.”
However, even though the Marcos administration has theoretically established a rehabilitation-based approach to drug enforcement in the country, extrajudicial killings (EJKs) continue to take place as part of the government’s anti-drug campaign. Alone in April 2023, the university-based initiative DAHAS documented 24 EJKs, the majority of which were committed by state security forces in Metro-Manila. In total, DAHAS reported at least 263 EJKs, which took place during anti-drug operations from July 2022 to April 2023.
Although the international community is calling on the Philippine government to end and investigate the EJKs of the “war on drugs”, President Marcos is only talking about an internal “cleansing” of the Philippine National Police (PNP). Police officers were asked to resign in early 2023 if they were suspected of involvement in killings related to the “war on drugs.”
In this regard, the Marcos government’s position or refusal to allow an independent investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) continues to be strongly criticised by human rights groups in the Philippines. Karapatan commented that “all these indicate not only the empty rhetoric of the Marcos Jr. administration in pursuing justice for the drug war victims, but also its complicity in whitewashing the crimes of Duterte and cohorts and its perpetuation of the same draconian policies.”
On April 24, 2023, Benjamin Acorda Jr. took over as PNP police chief from Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. and is expected to hold the post until his retirement in December 2023. He brings years of experience in local and regional police work as well as in Camp Cramp in Quezon City. In addition, the Ilocano also worked for the Philippine intelligence and counterintelligence service.
Photo © Raffy Lerma