Trump vs. Philippines’ Duterte: Police Brutality and Underreported Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines

The month of August has undoubtedly witnessed a profound division of humanity motivated by abuse of power. On a global stance, both Western and Eastern politics have become more comparable regarding Trump’s response to the tragedy in Charlottesville and Duterte’s stance on police brutality after the killing of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos in the midst of the Philippines’ war on drugs.

Trump has voiced his support for Duterte’s extrajudicial killings

A phone call between Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte was leaked in April and affirmed the public’s speculations of their suspected camaraderie. One of the highlights of the conversation is Trump’s heaping praise for Duterte’s “unbelievable job” in his war on drugs.

According to an official transcript of the phone call produced by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, Trump had initiated the conversation by making quick comparisons between him and the Philippines’ head of state.

“[…] you don’t sleep much, you’re just like me. You are not a person who goes to bed at all. I know that, right?” Trump told Duterte before quickly pivoting to the showering of compliments. “I just wanted to congratulate you on because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

[caption id="attachment_95588" align="aligncenter" width="544"] Trump ‘s leaked exchange with Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte publicized his outpouring support for the country’s extrajudicial killings. Source: Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs[/caption]

Trump made a point in the phone call that his predecessor, former U.S. president Barack Obama, had been publicly critical with the rising body count under Duterte’s presidency. To make his point clear, Trump made sure to extend his sentiments by affirming his support for the Philippine strongman through an open invitation at the White House.

Duterte condemns police brutality

One of the bloodiest campaigns on Duterte’s crackdown on drugs got 90 people killed in the three-day police operation, with 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos being one of the mourned victims.

His killing sparked nation-wide awareness with malignant protests and rallies in the name of halting the bloodshed.

[caption id="attachment_95592" align="aligncenter" width="584"] Protestors seeking justice for the killing of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos in front of the Philippines National Police (PNP0 headquarters. Source: Romeo Ranoco[/caption]

Surveillance footage showed the victim being dragged by police in civilian clothes to an alley where he was found dead. Police said that he was a drug-courier, but his family insists on police brutality, claiming that he was unarmed and innocent.

[caption id="attachment_95598" align="aligncenter" width="448"] Surveillance camera footage appeared to show Kian Delos Santos being dragged by police officers on the night of his death. Source: Reuters[/caption]

In an article by New York Times, the police claim that Delos Santos was carrying a handgun when they encountered him on August 16, the night of his death and that they had shot him in self-defense. In contrast to their claims, witnesses have said that they had seen the officers dragging the victim near a community basketball court before handing him a gun and instructing him to run – only to shoot him as he turned to follow his given instructions.

Kian Delos Santos was just one of the many victims of police brutality in the Philippines. In July of last year, a photo of Jennilyn Olayres cradling the dead body of her husband Michael Siaron went viral but had only received significant attention in the country’s national media and a snarky comment from the president himself.

[caption id="attachment_95599" align="aligncenter" width="527"] Jennilyn Olayred cradling the body of his dead husband, one of the many victims of Duterte’s crackdown on drugs. Source: New York Times[/caption]

In a speech to Congress, Duterte mocks the media for portraying Olayres “like Mother Mary cradling the dead cadaver of Jesus Christ.”

As shown through recent events, Duterte’s stance on police brutality has swayed at the slightest.

Throughout his campaign, Duterte stood firmly behind the bellicose rhetoric regarding his war on drugs that has killed thousands of mostly urban poor Filipinos. Critics say that this has created “a culture of impunity and emboldened police to execute suspects,” according to Senator Risa Hontiveros.

The Philippine strongman has vowed to pardon any policeman convicted of abuse regarding his crackdown on drugs; however, in contrast to his promise, he says that there would be no protection for those who broke the rules of this engagement.

“Let us be clear on this. I said I will protect those who are doing their duty. I never promised to protect those who are supposedly engaged in doing their duty but committing a crime in the process,” Duterte said in his speech this morning.

“You are not allowed to kill a person that is kneeling down begging for his life. That is murder.” –– Rodrigo Duterte on police brutality

Assuring the media, the Philippine president added that he had ordered that the officers involved in Delos Santos’ death to be taken into custody. 

“I saw the tape on TV and I agree that there should be an investigation. Should the investigation point to liabilities by one, two, or all, there will be a prosecution, and they have to go to jail if convicted,” Duterte addressed in a press conference on Monday.

The injustice of Santos’ case could be the turning point of the Philippines’ war on drugs, as Duterte publicly admits the ongoing abuse of power in law enforcements and recognizes the rightful and lawful consequences for the policemen at fault. 

Trump invites police to be “rougher” with their suspects

Merely a month before the cataclysm in Charlottesville that sparked major controversy in lack of police presence, Trump addressed a roomful of officers in Long Island in regards to M-13.

M-13 is a “brutal street gang” that roam the streets of the suburbs of New York. They have been recently linked with multiple high profile killings.

In his speech, Trump pledged to have the backs of police and law enforcement and praised the “rough” officers of ICE, who have been known for their aggressive behaviour towards suspected and known undocumented immigrants.

Trump encourages officers to be more hostile when dealing with suspected criminals. “When you see these thugs thrown into the back of a paddy wagon. You see them thrown in, rough. I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice’” Trump states, not before a huge grin is plastered on his face erupting the room full of government officials and police officers to burst into laughter.

Not long after the Trump’s visit, the New York Police Department (NYPD) has released a statement that says:

“To suggest that police officers apply any standard in the use of force other than what is reasonable and necessary is irresponsible, unprofessional, and sends the wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public.”

In the zenith of unjust killings targeting black people in America, Trump received a rightful outpour of criticism regarding his choice of words in his speech regarding his endorsement of police brutality.

Popular for his controversial speeches, Trump doesn’t fail to disappoint in his speech regarding the Charlottesville protest. He says: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

It’s the “on many sides” bit that people had a problem with. Trump seems to repetitively avoid calling the Charlottesville incident an act of terrorism, a stark contrast to his constant outcry concerning “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Trump had also failed to mention the sudden lack of police presence during the protest, resulting in the death of Heather Heyer and 19 others injured.

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