MANILA: Armed police are detaining crying children, bewildered drunks and shirtless men throughout the Philippine capital in a night-time blitz that is offering an authoritarian taste of life under incoming President Rodrigo Duterte.
The incendiary lawyer won last month’s elections by a landslide largely on a pledge to end or suppress what he said was rampant crime, warning the Philippines was in danger of becoming a narco-state and that tens of thousands of criminals would be killed in his crackdown.
Across the nation, police have already reported killing more than 20 alleged drug suspects over the past fortnight, egged on by Duterte who has urged them to begin his war on crime even before he takes office at the end of this month.
The efforts by police in Manila, a chaotic mega-city of more than 12 million people, to clean up the streets ahead of Duterte being sworn in casts a light on other controversial aspects of his law-and-order campaign.
Since winning, Duterte has said he will impose late-night bans on children walking the streets, alcohol sales and the national passion of karaoke singing — insisting that his crackdown must start with the fundamentals of discipline in society.
Duterte said he intends to similarly jail parents for “abandonment,” while the children will be sent to be cared for by the already overwhelmed Social Welfare department.
Jose Diokno, chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group, which lawyers for victims of human rights abuses, said the operations concerned many levels, including that armed police were traumatizing children.
Diokno also voiced concern that Duterte’s war on crime, like with Oplan RODY now, would target the poor.
“They are the weakest sector of society, the easiest to oppress, they are already oppressed,” Diokno told Agence France-Presse.
Since winning, Duterte has said he will also offer bounties to police to kill criminals.
He added that he turned Davao City into one of the nation’s safest but rights groups say vigilante death squads have killed more than 1,000 people there.
Until his victory, he was the long-time mayor of the southern city. Duterte has variously denied and boasted about links to the death squads, but has been unequivocal about what is in store for the Phil-ippines when he becomes President.
“I intend to instil fear in the criminals,” he said after winning the elections.