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 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.”