Duterte’s war on drugs has created “an economy of murder” in the Philippines, says Amnesty International

Another job completed.
Another job completed.
Image: Reuters/Damir Sagolj
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President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs in the Philippines has created incentives to kill and “an economy of murder,” according to a new report by Amnesty International. More than 7,000 drug-related killings have taken place in the nation since Duterte came to power seven months ago.

According to an officer who spoke to the rights group, police are paid $160 to $300 extra in cash—secretly, back at headquarters—for each extrajudicial execution disguised as a legitimate operation. They receive no bonus for mere arrests, however. Further, some officers have set up arrangements with funeral homes whereby they get another payment for sending corpses their way.

Conversations with witnesses of such killings and others suggest the police involved also plant evidence, steal from the victim’s home, and falsify reports.

The police are not the only ones incentivized to murder. Professional killers said that whereas before Duterte became president they’d get a few hit jobs per month, now they carry out three or four a week. They earn about $100 for each drug user killed and $200 to $300 for each seller—from the police.

Given such incentives, it’s easy to see why many Filipinos live in fear of being put on unverified lists—drawn up by local officials—identifying those suspected of using or selling illegal drugs. In some cases a name is added even if the person in question took drugs only one time long ago, or only a small amount was involved. In other cases the person is innocent but irrevocably added to the list because of a vendetta.

Amnesty reports the victims of the hits are mostly poor and defenseless people.

Duterte has lashed out at world leaders and institutions who have dared to criticize or question his war on drugs. (Donald Trump praised it.) But on Jan. 30 Duterte acknowledged corrupt police were a problem and suspended the war on drugs, following the murder of a South Korean businessman taken by anti-drug police.

“We will cleanse our ranks,” he said. “Then maybe after that, we can resume our war on drugs.”