Political persecution and killings of activists and human rights defenders have been consistently at the top of the government’s agenda since Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency in 2016. To date, more than 2,000 human rights defenders have already been attacked through various forms including threat, intimidation, harassment, trumped-up charges, and extrajudicial killing. The massive crackdown against activists has transformed the Philippines into one of the most notorious countries for civil society.
War against dissent
The administration has been successful in orchestrating a systematic and organized campaign against dissenters and members of the opposition. The purest form of the strategy, which populists like Duterte use to stifle dissent, is the process that we call “othering” – a process of social exclusion, separating the “us” from “them.” To put it simply, the government made it a norm to exclude individuals or groups who are against the state’s policies and direction as “enemies” of change, and as a response, the government must get rid of them.
Drug dependents who have fallen prey to the war on drugs are victims of the process. The public has been conditioned to believe that those who are engaged in drug activities, especially those who engage in small-scale drug transactions, are irreformable. Any attempt to rehabilitate them would mean wasted state resources.
The same process is being used against dissenters and activists through red-tagging or branding them as communists. Only recently, offices of national democratic organizations were raided and their members were arrested.
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