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A Black Christmas For Drug Suspects

PHILIPPINES

A year ago, as Rodrigo Duterte was still running for president of the Philippines, he launched a jarring advertisement warning drug suspects and other scofflaws that it would be their last Christmas alive, if they did not stop in their illegal trades.

Since assuming the presidency, Duterte has set about making good on that campaign Christmas promise with bloody efficiency. Reportedly more than six thousand alleged drug suspects have been killed since he took office, with “casualties of war” being included in that tally.

That prior Christmas warning continues in effect, and new survey results show that Filipinos have mixed feelings about Duterte's iron-fisted tactics.

During a Christmas party for the police headquarters’ officers and staff, Duterte's trusted police chief Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa aired his own Christmas wish: that God would forgive the police for the killings, but that the “war on drugs” will continue.

While Chief Ronald dela Rosa stressed that not all the fatalities were perpetrated by the police, the violence was nevertheless a result of the relentless campaign of the country's chief executive to combat the drug menace.

Dela Rosa noted that out of the 2,886 deaths under investigation, only around 1,000 are drug-related.

This means a many other people took advantage of the government’s anti-drug campaign to settle their own scores, raising the number of fatalities in recent months. These vigilante incidents are being looked into by the police, de la Rosa said.

The killings continue to be criticized by in the Philippines and overseas. Newly elected Senator Leila de Lima took her concerns to the Annual Conference on Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin, Germany, to highlight what is happening in the country in connection with the government’s anti-drug campaign.

"One year ago, our country seemed well on its way to realizing the aspirations and ideals as embodied in the Preamble to our Constitution," she said, describing the 2016 as a "year of interesting turns of events."

"Never could I have foreseen the extent to which the very face and values of my country and my people could have changed in just 12 months, nor the disturbing direction we seem to be hurtling towards from here on," she added.

The Philippine population is showing signs of strain with the policies, but also indications that the drug problem is retreating due to the crackdown.

In the most recent survey conducted by Social Weather Stations, a trusted Filipino research organization, 8 out of 10 Filipinos are worried that they or someone they know will be victimized by or unnecessarily dragged into the government’s anti-drug campaign.

A total of 78 percent of 1,500 respondents in the nationwide SWS survey expressed worry that they or someone they know would be killed.

The results of the study done from Dec. 3 to 6 was first reported in BusinessWorld, a prominent Filipino business broadsheet.

Despite the worries, 85 percent of the respondents said they were satisfied with the government’s war on drugs. With only eight percent “dissatisfied,” this equates to an “excellent” net rating, the study noted.

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