How Could They Do This To My Child? Extrajudicial Killings Of Children In The Philippines

A Philippines customs form warning of the law regarding drug smuggling under President Duterte. Source: S and S Imaging

Amidst public outrage at the sheer scale of global police violence, a new report urges the international community to unequivocally condemn Duterte's “war on drugs”. As the anti-drug campaign ravages the Philippines, hundreds of thousands of children are paying the price.

The human rights abuses of Filipeno President Rodrigo Duterte’s “senseless” war on drugs are unmistakable. Filipino children, according to a World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) report published in June, are bearing the brunt of the growing violence. The report evidences the increased incarceration rates for children in the country, the tens of thousands who have been orphaned or whose parents have been detained for “drug crimes,” and the murder of 122 under-18s by police between 2016 and 2019. So far, this year, at least seven more children have lost their lives to police violence in The Philippines. The international community must unequivocally condemn the government’s actions and act quickly to protect the children caught in the crossfire. 

Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war had been characterised by its extrajudicial killings, the silencing of deprecatory media sources, and the passing of repressive laws authorising the warrantless arrests of those critical of the administration. A report issued this June by the OMCT, however, paints an even more abhorrent picture, evidencing the killing of over 120 children by the Duterte regime between July 2016 and December 2019. 

The report details six of these horrific incidents, whose victims were often the “direct targets” of police officers, killed as “proxies when the real targets could not be found,” as a result of “mistaken identity,” or as “collateral damage” from stray bullets. The youngest victim of the violence, shot by a motorcyclist chasing a “drug suspect,” was a one year old girl named Elena. 

Children - particularly those living in the country’s poorest areas, and those who do not receive regular schooling - have suffered disproportionately as a result of the Filipino government’s atrocious human rights abuses. Over 32,000 of them have been orphaned by police killings, and between 150,000 and 450,000 have seen a parent sent to prison for drug offences. 

The international community must unequivocally condemn Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” and urge the President to put an end to the violence, so argues the OMCT. The International Criminal Court (ICC) in particular, must expedite an investigation into the human rights violations of Duterte’s administration, particularly its violence against minors in the name of drug policing. 

Sources have claimed that so far, as many as 27,000 people may have been killed as a result of extrajudicial killings as part of the government’s “war on drugs.” Despite this, only in one case was a police officer convicted of murder after his killing of a 17 year old was caught on film. 

A report penned by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR,) published on June 4th, condemned the ongoing violence perpetrated by the Filipino government. Jodesz Gavilan of Rappler surmised that the report highlighted “the ‘heavy-handed’ focus of the Duterte government on combating national security threats” which have led to “serious human rights abuses,” that have been “reinforced by the ‘harmful rhetoric’ of government officials.” What’s more, international organisations and activists have expressed growing fears that the Covid-19 pandemic may exacerbate the situation in The Philippines, and that the police’s grip on marginalised communities may tighten to a greater degree over the coming months. 

Duterte’s drug war has yielded few, (perhaps no) arrests of major drug dealers, whilst continuing to shatter impoverished communities and the lives of children. The anti-drug campaign has so far proved fruitless in its attempts to “end the drug problem” in The Philippines, working instead to instill terror into the lives of people living in affected communities, and needlessly killing thousands upon thousands of people, under a guise of ‘law and order.’