MANILA — Since taking workplace simply over three years in the past, President Rodrigo Duterte has not solely overseen a murderous marketing campaign on drug customers and sellers. He has additionally unleashed a brazen assault on the nation’s democratic establishments — at instances, utilizing his so-called struggle on medication as a pretense for going after his political adversaries and dissenters.
I ought to know: I’m one in all its victims. I’m scripting this essay from a jail cell in Camp Crame, the nationwide Police Headquarters in Manila. I’ve spent the previous two years right here, after being arrested on fabricated drug-trafficking fees. But the one crime I dedicated was to make use of my platform as a senator to oppose the brutality of this administration’s marketing campaign in opposition to medication. And I hardly am the one goal.
Mr. Duterte’s authorities has orchestrated the removing of a Supreme Court chief justice and harassed and sidelined Vice President Leni Robredo (she belongs to a completely different celebration). Independent media homes have been bullied with bogus legal fees; one was successfully pressured into being bought to Duterte allies. The president has publicly threatened human rights activists and others with dying — by no means thoughts that he or his aides usually then downplay his statements as lighthearted banter.
But most worrisome, maybe, is the administration’s effort to cow what little stays of the formal political opposition, usually via politicized legal instances.
Take my case. In 2016, shortly after Mr. Duterte’s election, I opened a Senate investigation to look into extrajudicial killings that have been being dedicated below the guise of combating drug crimes. The president’s retribution was as swift because it was ruthless.
He as soon as mentioned, “I will have to destroy her in public.” He has called me an “immoral woman,” and in 2016 his allies claimed to possess a compromising sex video and threatened to show it to a congressional panel. In February 2017, I surrendered to the police after arrest warrants were issued against me. I have remained in detention since, facing three drug-related charges — for which the evidence is laughably thin. The United Nations, the European Union, various human rights groups and other experts have called the charges politically motivated.
Other opposition lawmakers have faced similar treatment, in particular those who oppose Mr. Duterte’s so-called war on drugs or other key administration policies, such as his efforts to bring back the death penalty or to revise the Constitution, most likely in order to remove limits on presidential terms. Many of these cases beggar belief. In October 2018, the Congressmen Antonio Tinio and Ariel Casilao organized a peaceful protest in Davao City against the continued application of martial law on the southern island of Mindanao, after brazen terrorist operations by an armed group linked to the Islamic State in the spring of 2017. The congressmen were then charged with child abuse, apparently because a handful of indigenous youth attended the demonstration.
Another frequent target is Senator Risa Hontiveros, a vocal critic of the government’s antidrug campaign. In 2017, Ms. Hontiveros helped shelter underage witnesses to the murder, by police officers, of a teenage boy. Although she was acting at the request of the witnesses’ parents — who understandably did not trust the police to keep their children safe — Ms. Hontiveros was charged with kidnapping (as well as for wiretapping).
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