MANILA, Dec 19, (RTRS): Eight out of 10 Filipinos worry they or someone they know might become a victim of extrajudicial killings, an opinion poll published on Monday found, although a majority also gave President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war an “excellent” rating. More than 2,000 people have been killed by police in anti-narcotics operations in the Philippines since Duterte took office on July 1.
Another 3,000 deaths, some attributed to masked men on motorcycles or vigilantes, are under investigation. Social Weather Stations (SWS), an independent pollster, asked 1,500 Filipinos nationwide if they were concerned that either they or someone they knew could fall victim to an extrajudicial killing, and 78 percent said they were either very worried or somewhat worried.
The SWS survey was conducted with faceto- face interviews on Dec. 3-6, with the results posted online on Monday. Despite those fears, the survey also found Filipinos were staunchly behind Duterte’s drugs war, which has drawn international concern and a request from a United Nations human rights expert to investigate. Duterte’s drugs war received an “excellent” mark from an overwhelming majority of respondents, a rating determined by deducting the eight percent of respondents who said they were dissatisfied from the 85 percent who were satisfied.
“I am not surprised with the conundrum that people acknowledge that the anti-drug campaign is fitting, so they allow it. But they would like less killings,” said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform. Martin Andanar, Duterte’s communication secretary, said the government recognised concerns among Filipinos but reiterated that the killings were not state-sponsored. “Rest assured that the Duterte administration respects the law and upholds the basic rights of our people, regardless of beliefs and political persuasion,” he said in a statement.
The survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent, also found 71 percent felt it was important to keep those suspected of drug use or drug trafficking alive. A similar figure said the extrajudicial killings were a serious problem. A convincing 88 percent also believed there had been a decrease in the illicit drug problem in their communities. The firebrand leader, known as “the Punisher” and “Duterte Harry”, has said he personally killed criminals while he was mayor of southern Davao City, leading senators to warn him that he risked being impeached. ‘Philippine Catholic leaders and rights groups on Monday condemned as “barbaric” President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to restore the death penalty and execute “five or six” criminals daily.
Duterte, 71, has made reviving the death penalty in the mainly Catholic nation his top legislative priority as part of a brutal war on crime that has killed 5,300 people. “There was death penalty before but nothing happened. Return that to me and I would do it every day: five or six (criminals). That’s for real,” Duterte said Saturday. An official at the infl uential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said the Church “totally opposed” Duterte’s plan.
“The Philippines will be viewed as very barbaric,” Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary at its public affairs office, told AFP. “It’s going to make the Philippines the capital of death penalty in the world.” The Philippines abolished the death penalty in 2006 following fierce opposition to the penalty from the Catholic Church, the religion of 80 percent of Filipinos. Before assuming office in June, Duterte vowed to introduce executions by hanging, saying he did not want to waste bullets and believed snapping the spinal cord was more humane than a firing squad. Duterte said he viewed the death penalty not as a means to deter crime but for retribution.