In the Philippines this week, anti-US protests turned violent, evidenced by brutal video that shows police vehicles intentionally barreling into protesters.
The demonstrations come in the wake of growing tensions between the governments of the Philippines and the United States. Earlier this week, the controversial president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte announced a “pivot” to China, claiming that the regional superpower supports the Pacific island nation more than the United States, claiming further that “America has lost.”
Historically, the United States and the Philippines have maintained a close military and economic alliance, stemming largely from the fact that the United States become the colonial ruler of the country after it defeated Spain in the Spanish American War in 1898.
Almost immediately after Duterte’s off-the-cuff remarks, the Philippine Trade Minister Ramon Lopez backtracked, stating that “The president did not talk about separation…In terms of economic [issues], we are not stopping trade, investment with America.”
The war of words is connected to the Philippines’ highly controversial and murderous drug war – spearheaded by Duterte – that has killed thousands. Since his ascension to the presidency in June, Duterte’s government has directly and indirectly killed at least 1,900 people in an aggressive, militarized campaign against drug use. Not only drug dealers, but users, too, have been caught up in the massacre, with many killed in police operations and perhaps several hundred by marauding vigilantes.
While maintaining a rather high level of popularity in the country, Duterte has attracted condemnation from various nations and human rights groups.
Not one to shy away from embracing his contentious character, the Philippine president has compared himself to Hitler, and in referred to US President Barack Obama as the “son of a whore.”
In a stunning display of his wanton approach to the drug war, Duterte recently referred to children caught in the crossfire as “collateral damage” adding that police would face no liability in such cases.
Meth use has taken the Philippines by storm, with some estimates placing the using population around 10%, or 7 million people. While this epidemic poses significant public health concerns – along with the violent criminal components that stem from the illicit drug trade – to say that Duterte’s campaign of terror offends basic human rights is an understatement.
Indeed, such extra-judicial killing have landed other abusive leaders at the Hague.