Since taking office on June 30, 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has launched an abusive “war on drugs” that has resulted in the deaths of almost 5,000 Filipinos to date, the vast majority poor urban slum dwellers. The Philippine National Police’s own data indicates that police killed at least 1,736 “suspected drug personalities” from July through October, with an additional 3,000 alleged drug users and dealers killed by “unidentified gunmen.” Police Director-General Ronald dela Rosa has characterized the killings as proof of an “uncompromising” approach to drug crimes.
During his 22-year tenure as mayor of Davao City in southern Mindanao, Duterte was a vocal supporter of a death squad that perpetrated hundreds of extrajudicial killings of so-called undesirables, including children as young as 14. The Davao Death Squad was organized, financed, and directed by elements of local police and government officials, as detailed in the 2009 Human Rights Watch report, “‘You Can Die Any Time’: Death Squad Killings in Mindanao.”
Large-scale extrajudicial violence as a crime solution became the cornerstone of Duterte's electoral campaign. On the eve of his May 9, 2016 election victory, he told a crowd of more than 300,000: “If I make it to the presidential palace I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, holdup men, and do-nothings, you better get out because I'll kill you.”