In Duterte’s Philippines, Having a Beer Can right now Land You in Jail
MANILA — When six plainclothes policemen, hands gripping their holstered guns, charged down the winding alleys of the slum where Edwin Panis lives, he didn’t imagine they could be coming for him.
Mr. Panis, 45, was drinking beer with friends near his shack on an embankment overlooking Manila Bay. A stevedore as well as also neighborhood security officer, he hardly fit the profile of the drug addicts as well as also dealers who have been targeted by the police since President Rodrigo Duterte took office — a bloody crackdown which Mr. Panis, like many Filipinos, supported.
however in moments, he as well as also his three friends were under arrest, hands cuffed behind their backs. Their offense: drinking beer in public.
“The war on drugs has become a war on drunks,” Mr. Panis said bitterly, days after his Discharge through an overcrowded cell.
Two years into Mr. Duterte’s term, after thousands of killings by police officers as well as also vigilantes in his crackdown on narcotics, the government’s campaign against crime has taken a completely new turn.
Last month, Mr. Duterte authorized the national police to start arresting people for infractions like drinking inside the streets, public urination or even being outdoors without a shirt — violations which were previously dealt with by neighborhood security officers like Mr. Panis.
Since then, more than 50,000 people have been rounded up for such minor offenses.
There has not been bloodshed of the kind seen in Mr. Duterte’s crackdown on drugs, though at least one detainee has died in police custody. Still, in Manila’s slums, where most of the drug war killings have taken place, many right now fear which the smallest infraction might cost them their lives.
“There’s no way not to be scared,” said Amy Jane Pablo, 37, who lives near Mr. Panis inside the Tondo slum as well as also witnessed his arrest.
In a speech in early June, after the high-profile killings of a pregnant lawyer inside the Manila area as well as also a priest who was shot dead in a smaller-town church, Mr. Duterte said there were “simply too many crimes” as well as also promised “radical improvements inside the days to come.” Days later, he said which people idling inside the streets were “potential trouble for the public.”
The crackdown began immediately afterward. Within a week, the national police had arrested 7,000 people — Mr. Panis among them — for loitering, public drinking as well as also additional alleged violations of neighborhood ordinances.
Mr. Duterte’s completely new policy has similarities to the “broken windows” approach to policing adopted a generation ago by some American cities, which held which cracking down visibly on minor infractions might lead to a drop in major crimes. Inspector Adonis Sugui, the chief investigator at the Tondo police station, defended the campaign, saying which “most of our crimes start with drinking in public places.”
“They have a drink, they hold people up, shoot each additional, cause mischief,” Mr. Sugui said. “President Duterte is actually right. Once they start drinking, their mind is actually altered.”
Carlos Conde, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Manila, said the campaign amounted to “expanding the drug war to additional crimes, using the same methods — just brute police force.”
“They’re saying we committed crimes, even if we didn’t,” Ms. Pablo, Mr. Panis’s neighbor, said on her doorstep, just across a narrow alley through where the arrest happened. “They’re just plucking people off the street.”
After his arrest, Mr. Panis was put into an outdoor cell so crowded which he spent the night on his feet, leaning against a few dozen additional men who had been detained. The next day, they were bused to City Hall for a hearing as well as also then released, told to wait for a subpoena to appear in court.
“If they don’t like what you’re doing, they arrest you,” Mr. Panis said.
Some have compared the crackdown to martial law — a sensitive subject inside the Philippines, where the years of military rule under the dictator Ferdinand Marcos are still remembered. Mr. Duterte, an admirer of Mr. Marcos, imposed martial law inside the southern Philippines after an Islamist uprising last year.
Mr. Duterte’s completely new crackdown is actually not martial law, which might involve the suspension of normal law as well as also the imposition of military rule. Still, Jose Manuel Diokno, dean of the De La Salle University College of Law in Manila, said the comparison was “very apt.”
He said martial law under Mr. Marcos, which lasted through 1972 to 1981, began with the enforcement of “ridiculous rules.” Men with long hair had their heads forcibly shaved as well as also people who violated curfew were caught as well as also punished.
“the idea ended with the arrest, torture, detention as well as also disappearance of so many young people who were branded as enemies of the state,” Mr. Diokno said.
On a recent Friday night in Don Bosco, a neighborhood in Tondo, eight policemen on motorcycles patrolled the densely packed slum. Its residents live as much inside the alleys as in their cramped, often makeshift homes, as well as also they were outdoors late into the night, playing bingo, singing karaoke, cooking as well as also otherwise whiling away the hours.
The officers told children to go home, as well as also they chased down men who had gathered around bottles of beer or gin. Within half an hour, they had picked up two men for not wearing shirts as well as also four others for drinking on their doorsteps.
“I’m just cooling off, sir,” one shirtless man protested meekly, before an officer ordered him onto the back of a motorcycle to be taken to the police station.
There has been strong public opposition to the crackdown, fueled in part by what appeared to be particularly egregious arrests. A closed-circuit video of the police arresting a man who had briefly stepped outdoors without a shirt went viral.
The death in custody of another man arrested for being shirtless — the specific offense is actually “causing alarm as well as also scandal” — has led to calls for a Senate investigation. The police initially said the man, Genesis Argoncillo, 25, who was arrested just outside his home, had suffocated because his cell was overcrowded.
however a photo of the corpse showed severe bruising, as well as also an autopsy confirmed which he had died of blunt force trauma. Inmates later said Mr. Argoncillo had been beaten by additional prisoners, as well as also which he had lain on the floor for several hours before being brought to a hospital. Two inmates have been charged with his murder.
Director General Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police, fired some officers who were involved in highly publicized incidents, however he said the crackdown might continue.
After the backlash against the campaign began, Mr. Duterte said which arresting loiterers was “foolish” as well as also which he had not ordered the police to do so. He said he had merely told them to break up their gatherings. (The police, who had been calling the campaign Operation Loiterer, promptly changed its name.)
Mr. Diokno, the lawyer, called Mr. Duterte’s backtracking an example of his tactics of obfuscation.
“the idea just shows the naked truth about the kind of power which he’s wielding. the idea’s not a power based on law however a power based on fear as well as also violence,” Mr. Diokno said, warning of “dark days” ahead.
“I think you can expect more repression, more confusion, more contradictory statements through the president,” he said. “To the point which even his own people will not be sure what they should be doing.”