Maybe Government Death Squads Are A Bad Idea

By James Corbett and cross-posted from

Remember when I warned about the worrying signs that Filipino President Rodrigo “Dirty Harry” Duterte was setting up a police state, including deputizing the public to kill suspected criminals, threatening martial law if the judiciary tried to stop him and endorsing the killing of journalists? Well, to adopt the parlance of the millennial Buzzfeed set, you won’t believe what happened next!

Actually, you will believe it. The Philippines has turned into a police state.

Specifically, Duterte himself had to halt his own self-declared war on drugs earlier this week because (who could’ve guessed it?!) the Filipino police had taken it as carte blanche to go on a kidnapping, murder and theft spree. A new report on the killings alleges that the police “have behaved like the criminal underworld they are supposed to be suppressing, taking payments for killings and delivering bodies to funeral homes.” It goes on to accuse the Filipino “authorities” of a “systematic, planned and organized” campaign of killings that could constitute a crime against humanity.

As if to underscore the point, a new story broke this week of a South Korean businessmen who was killed by a gang of “rogue” police officers. Using a fake warrant, the Philippines’ finest arrested him, dragged him to the national police headquarters, strangled him to death, cremated him and flushed his remains down the toilet.

Bowing to the mounting pressure, Duterte gave a speech earlier this week to announce a dramatic change in plans. “I have ordered the police to stop all operations,” he said. “No policeman in this country anywhere is allowed to enforce laws related to the drug campaign.”

All’s well that ends well, right? I mean, you can’t make an omelette without killing 7,000 people, right? And, after all, at least the man who consciously models himself on Clint Eastwood movie characters had the sense to call an end to the program, right?

Wrong. He’s not ending his war on drugs. In fact, he’s about to make it even worse.

While Duterte is taking the national police off the drug beat, he’s instead handing the reins over to the Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency, who will be acting with the support of the military. Oh, and he’s now threatening to kill even more people and extend the drug war, originally slated to end in March, until 2022, the end of his presidential term. But don’t worry about martial law; he insists that he won’t need to declare it in order to enlist the military in his slaughter.

That a government-sanctioned death squad program has turned into a nightmare of blood, violence, criminality, corruption, mayhem and terror should surprise no one. That we are moving into an era where strong-man authoritarian thugs not only implement such programs but are increasingly lauded for it should, if not surprise, at the very least concern everyone

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