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Police Arrests 200, Guns down 67 in Philippines : President Rodrigo Duterte’s Ruthless War on Drugs and Crime

War on drugs and crime escalates in Philippines taking the toll for one of the bloodiest weeks so far to 80

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Drug war in Philippines
Police officers stand behind a police line after a man was killed during a police anti-drug operation in Caloocan city, Metro Manila, Philippines, Aug. 17, 2017. VOA

Police killed at least 13 people in Manila on the third night of an escalation in President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruthless war on drugs and crime, taking the toll for one of the bloodiest weeks so far to 80, Reuters witnesses and media reported Friday.

Earlier this week, 67 people were gunned down and more than 200 arrested in Manila and provinces adjoining the Philippines capital, in what police described as a “One-Time, Big-Time” push to curb drugs and street crimes.

The term has been used by Philippines police to describe a coordinated anti-crime drive in crime-prone districts, usually slums or low-income neighborhoods, often with additional police deployed.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during the 19th Founding Anniversary of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila, Philippines, Aug, 16, 2017.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during the 19th Founding Anniversary of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila, Philippines, Aug, 16, 2017. VOA

Spike in killings

The spike in killings drew condemnation from Vice President Leni Robredo, who belongs to a party opposed to Duterte.

Branding it “something to be outraged about,” she has been a constant critic of the crackdown that has killed thousands of Filipinos and caused international alarm since Duterte took office more than a year ago.

A team of Reuters journalists went to five communities in Manila Thursday night, where four men died in shootouts with undercover police in drug “buy-bust” or sting operations.

Police prevented the journalists from getting near the scene in the northwestern neighborhood of Caloocan, but they saw three body bags being taken from a maze of narrow alleys. Elsewhere in Caloocan, they saw the corpse of a man slumped on an iron fence at the back of a mini-bus terminal.

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Another man was killed near the Manila post office building, four died in hospitals in the northern area of Malabon and another died on the spot near a former garbage dump in the sprawling Quezon City district.

Three others were killed elsewhere Thursday night, according to a radio report, including a man who was shot by masked men on a motorcycle in the eastern area of Marikina City.

Call for protest

“The killing spree must stop even as we also demand a stop to the proliferation of illegal drugs,” Renato Reyes, secretary-general of the left-wing Bayan (Nation) movement, said. “A long-term and thorough solution is necessary. A fascist solution is doomed to fail.”

Reyes urged Filipinos to join a protest organized by a group of artists in Quezon City, saying in a flyer on social media: “Let us condemn the recent spike in the killings under the Duterte regime.”

Police say there has been no instruction from higher authorities to step up their anti-drug operations and they are only doing their job.

“The president did not instruct me to kill and kill,” national police chief Ronald dela Rosa said Thursday. “I also don’t have any instructions to my men to kill and kill. But the instruction coming from the president is very clear that our war on drugs is unrelenting. Those who were killed fought back.”

Duterte indicated this week that the escalation had his blessing, saying it was good that 32 criminals had been killed in a province north of Manila and adding: “Let’s kill another 32every day. Maybe we can reduce what ails this country.”

On Thursday, he said he would not just pardon police officers who killed drug offenders during the anti-narcotics campaign, but also promote them.

Critics maintain that members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) are executing suspects and say it is likely they have a hand in thousands of unsolved murders of drug users by mysterious vigilantes. The PNP and government reject that.

Although the violence has been criticized by much of the international community, Filipinos largely support the campaign and domestic opposition to it has been muted. (VOA)

Next Story

This Bamboo Entrepreneur from Philippines Aims at Tackling Poverty and Climate Change

Philippines Bamboo Entrepreneur Digs In on Poverty and Climate Threats

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Bamboo
Bambuhay, a company in Philippines has sold nearly 400,000 reuseable bamboo straws. Lifetime Stock

Mark Sultan Gersava grew up in poverty, one of 12 children of a slash-and-burn subsistence farmer in the Philippines province of Sultan Kudarat.

Today he is the “chief executive farmer” of a company aimed at tackling that same poverty, and combating climate change at the same time.

His firm Bambuhay helps farmers shift from slash-and-burn agriculture – which accounts for about a third of deforestation in the Philippines – to growing bamboo, now in demand as an alternative material to throw-away plastic.

The company, now in its second year of operation, makes popular bamboo straws, toothbrushes, tumblers, and bamboo-based charcoal briquettes, to replace those made from wood.

So far Bambuhay has sold nearly 400,000 reuseable bamboo straws, Gersava said.

In late October, wearing a bamboo salakót, a traditional farmers hat, he told delegates to the One Young World conference of youth leaders in London what drove him to launch his company.

“In the span of one year, I experienced two super typhoons (and) the hottest measured temperature in Philippines history,” Gersava said.

Bamboo forest
A bamboo forest is pictured behind Suntory Holdings’ Yamazaki Distillery in Shimamoto town, Osaka prefecture, near Kyoto. VOA

“This was the first time I had faced the direct consequences of climate change,” he said.

Less Poverty, Fewer Emissions

Gersava settled on bamboo – a fast-growing plant that absorbs large amounts of climate-changing carbon dioxide and can help prevent soil erosion – as a way of taking action on both climate change and poverty.

The Philippines climate, he said, is perfect for growing the giant grass and has helped poor farmers “become agri-preneurs.”

The effort has helped cut extreme poverty for thousands of farmers so far, he says.

“Bamboo is a symbol of poverty in the Philippines. If you live in a bamboo house, you’re very poor – that’s basically how it was before,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“But bamboo now has gained a lot of good attention since I started the company,” he said.

Bambuhay has partnered with the Philippines government and farmers to replant 540 hectares (1,340 acres) of deforested land through the company’s Bamboo AgroForestry Program, Gersava said.

Just how versatile bamboo fibre can be was evident in the entrepreneur’s own attire at the conference, including a sleek bamboo wallet and his cone-shaped hat, a golden salakót.

Such hats are usually made from reeds, but his was produced by farmers from bamboo – a gift in gratitude for his help in pulling them out of poverty, he said.

“When I wear this hat, I feel connected to the farmers. They are the one who are left behind,” Gersava said.

“They are the most important people that we that we need to protect. … We need to value these people more.”

Bamboo Business

Plastic bamboo
Bamboo straws stored in a jar on a table at the Copacabana restaurant on Yoff Virage beach in Dakar. VOA

Last year, Gersava sold his condominium, quit his job and with no formal business training and just $2,000 in start-up funds launched Bambuhay, his social enterprise.

“It’s very hard to start a business in the Philippines,” he said.

“There’s no support from the government, you have very limited funding. … I started with only one person.”

Now Gersava employs 17 full-time staff. He says as CEO his aim is not to become rich but to ensure much of what the company earns passes to its farmers.

Still, in addition to helping farmers, he’s been able to help pay college fees for his two nieces and support his siblings and parents, he said.

He says his work is far from done. By 2030, he aims for his company to have helped establish 1 billion bamboo plants and to have lifted 100,000 farmers out of poverty, especially in extremely poor areas such as his hometown and the province of Sulu.

Growing up in an impoverished family in Sultan Kudarat, he said, has given him a deep understanding of who pays the highest price as climate change impacts, from floods and droughts to heatwaves and storms, intensify.

“The wealthy CEOs and politicians are not the ones suffering the most from the consequences of climate change. It is the rural villager,” he said.

“It is the struggling farmers who are suffering from severe water shortages and droughts that will be the worst hit by food insecurity,” he predicted.

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To battle both poverty and climate change, “we cannot continue with business as usual,” he said.

“We must continue to innovate, to protest and to hold government and companies’ feet to the fire,” he said in a speech at the conference. (VOA)