Philippine Leader’s Popularity Drops Amid Drug-Related Killings: Independent Poll

Felipe Villamor
171009-PH-drug-620.jpg Nanette Castillo grieves next to the body of her son Aldrin, who was killed by unidentified gunmen in Manila, Oct. 3, 2017.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s popularity slumped in the third quarter of 2017, according to an independent poll released over the weekend, in what human rights groups said reflected the public’s waning support for his administration’s anti-drug war.

A survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) carried out from Sept. 23 to 27, placed Duterte’s net satisfaction rating at positive 48 percent, an 18-point drop from when he assumed office in June 2016.

Sixty percent of those surveyed said they trusted the president, a 15-point decline, according to the survey, which polled 1,500 adults.

The overall scores reflected “good to very good ratings” for the president, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said, considering that Duterte won last year’s election by a landslide on an anti-crime platform.

Abella admitted Monday that the drop in ratings was “expected given the fact that the people start measuring their expectations usually after the honeymoon period, or after a year in office.”

More than 12,800 people have been shot dead across the Philippines since June, according to official government figures. Almost 3,000 of the killings were drug-related, mostly in alleged gunfights between suspects and police officers, while officials said about 8,200 were “deaths under investigation.”

Abella insisted that despite the drop, public satisfaction overall remained good as shown by the president’s trust rating.

“It is worth noting that surveys are snapshots of the public mood at a given time and the SWS survey was conducted between Sept. 23 and Sept. 27,” Abella told reporters.

This was about the same time that the public carried out a “national day of protest,” when thousands of Filipinos vented their anger over the killings, he said.

The citizens were allowed to “freely vent their grievances about the excesses and shortcomings of the government, and some sentiments may have spilled over,” Abella said.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said Duterte’s style of governance was “losing its appeal and support among the public.

“The survey is an ominous warning,” she said in a statement Monday. “There are deep and widening rumblings of discontent across different social classes and all over the country with rampant killings, fake news and numerous accusations of corruption.

“The writing on the wall is simple and clear. President Duterte cannot govern based on fear, lies and killings,” Hontiveros said. “He cannot govern outside the rule of law and with total disregard for human rights and expect no consequence.”

The recent survey follows a similar poll carried out by the SWS in September that showed 54 percent of Filipinos believe that most of those slain during anti-drug crackdowns did not fight back as claimed by the police.

Common answer from police

“Fight back,” which translates into Tagalog as “nanlaban,” has been a common answer by police to explain deaths that occur in its anti-drugs operation.

Duterte’s anti-drugs war has been condemned by human rights advocates, the United Nations and the European Union.

In anti-drug raids last week, 10 people were killed and more than 140 were arrested, including a mayor in the south. In August, almost 100 people were killed in the drugs war as Duterte praised the police, saying the country’s narcotics problem would be solved if officers continued to kill addicts and pushers.

But he had recently tempered his public comments, after it emerged that three teenagers who were randomly picked up by police were among those killed.

One of them was shown in a surveillance television camera being dragged away by police shortly before he was killed, contrary to police claims that the arresting officers shot him dead after he fired at them. None of those officers were injured.

Church leads protests

The politically influential Catholic Church, which counts more than 80 percent of the country’s 103 million people as members, led protests calling for an end to the killings. It also vowed to protect police who have come forward and testified to church officials that some of those slain in the drug war were summarily killed.

On Monday, the independent Commission on Human Rights said it shared the sentiments held by many Filipinos and it hit out at the national police for saying that there were “zero” extrajudicial killings, or EJKs, since Duterte took power.

The commission noted that EJK “encompasses any killing by government forces, as well as killings by any other groups or individuals which the government fails to investigate, prosecute and punish when it is in a position to do so.”

“Thousands of deaths have been reported to be committed by both vigilantes and police personnel during the ongoing anti-illegal drug operations. The commission maintains that killing must never be an option to solve the drug problem in the country,” said commission spokeswoman Jacqueline Ann de Guia.

“Although there are high-profile personalities being caught and killed in the campaign, Filipinos in lower socio-economic classes tend to suffer more, and yet, no one has been held accountable for any of these killings,” she said.

The police’s common excuse of “nanlaban” does not justify the killings, de Guia said, adding that the latest survey “accurately shows that impunity persists in our society.

“Denying these allegations without observing due process of law would not yield substantial solution to the issue, but would just cultivate a culture of impunity within the ranks,” she said.

Left-leaning human-rights group Karapatan (Rights) also scored what it called the “mad scramble” of Duterte aides to “spread lies in international platforms on the non-existence of extrajudicial killings in the country.”


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