Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned the public during his third State of the Nation address July 23 that his two-year war on drugs would become even “more chilling” in the coming days. Earlier that day, a group of human rights advocates attended Mass before taking to the streets of Manila armed with banners and placards calling for an end to extrajudicial killings, rallying for “democracy, justice, and freedom,” and demanding Duterte step down from office.
During the Mass, the bishop who delivered the homily reminded parishioners that some 23,000 people have been slain as part of Duterte’s brutal campaign against narcotics pushers and users, ucanews.com reported.
Some didn’t need reminding; they already had lost family members to what critics see as a campaign of state-sanctioned murder, with many suspects gunned down before being able to defend themselves in court.
Nanet Castillo is a case in point. Her son was killed during the first wave of the war on drugs in 2016. “We continue to seek and wait for justice to be served,” she said. Father Gilbert Villena, a member of Rise Up, a group formed by the relatives of those killed by security forces, said it was time to demand that Duterte fulfill his promises of “change for the greater good.”
Human rights groups have described the past two years as the “worst years for human rights” in the Philippines since the declaration of martial law in September 1972.