Street-executions are surging in President Duterte's Philippines

Members of the Philippine National Police examine the scene of a crime where an alleged drug dealer was summarily executed in Manila. Source: EPA

The new president promised blood on the streets, and he's delivered.

Warning: This article contains graphic images

The election of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines earlier this year alarmed many around the world.

The brash, tough-talking former mayor made a war on drugs and crime the centrepiece of his campaign, promoting violence, death-squads and vigilante justice as ways of getting the job done.

"Forget the laws on human rights. If I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out – because I'd kill you," he said in his final campaign rally before the election. "I'll dump all of you into Manila Bay, and fatten all the fish there.”

Duterte was sworn in as president on June 30 after a landslide victory - it’s taken only a few weeks for him to come through on his promise for a bloody and violent war on drugs.

“Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun, you have my support,” he said in a victory speech, and it seems many have responded.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer has been keeping a tally of the deaths. Titled The Kill List, the newspaper has recorded over 400 deaths, including over 100 by unnamed vigilantes.

“The surge in the killing of suspected criminals since June 30, 2016 has been marked and unmistakable,” an editor's note reads. “Most of those killed were identified by the police as suspected drug dealers or pushers.”

The paper noted that more than half the deaths in a recent update were carried out by vigilantes, and that “police in Cebu City are also looking into the possibility that a rogue ‘Cebu City Death Squad’ is now in operation.”

Bodies have been found with makeshift signs around their necks. “I am a pusher” read a note scrawled on cardboard next to the body of a man shot dead by an unknown gunman.

While President Duturte and his month-long war on drugs remain highly popular, the dramatic increase in summary executions is worrying to many.

An image of a 26-year-old woman weeping as she cradled the body of her slain husband has gone viral on social-media. President Duterte called it melodramatic.

The execution of 22-year-old Rowena Tiamson has also made headlines. The honours student was found dead on a road near Manaoag, in the northern Philippines, on July 19.

Her hands were bound and her face wrapped in packaging tape, according to The Philippine Daily Inquirer. A note around her neck read “Don’t emulate. She is a pusher.”

The violence has drawn condemnation from human rights groups.

“Duterte's praise for summary killings of criminal suspects puts all Filipinos at risk of state-sanctioned murder,” Human Rights Watch said.

“Threatening to introduce a culture of impunity, as Rodrigo Duterte has done in recent weeks, will only exacerbate the problems that he campaigned to resolve,” Amnesty International said.

But President Duterte is unrepentant, and has offered pre-signed pardons to police charged with excessive use of force.

"Show no mercy to them because they are not showing any mercy to us anyway," he told lawmakers in a recent state of the nation address.

The government says that the campaign is working. Close to 60,000 drug users have surrendered and pledged to change their ways, according to the president’s office.

Hundreds of drug dealers have also surrendered or been arrested, adding to already overcrowded prisons. Over 300kg of methamphetamine was taken off the streets in the first two weeks, according to officials.

A Police Special Action Force has taken over control of at least one prison, where correctional officials had allegedly allowed drug-traffickers to carry on their business from behind bars.

“[There will be] no let up in this campaign. Double your efforts - triple them if need be,” President Duterte said. “We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financer and the last pusher have surrendered or [been] put behind bars – or below the ground if they so wish.”

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