Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte “Confronts Ugly Head of Terrorism”

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Since becoming president of the Philippines on June 30, Rodrigo Duterte has primarily been consumed with ridding his country of drug-related crimes. This past Friday, however, the Filipino head of state officially declared a “state of lawlessness” after alleged Islamists attacked a marketplace in his hometown of Davao. Only a tier down from enforcing martial law, this latest decree now permits police and military forces to halt vehicles or frisk civilians at their total discretion.

“We have to confront the ugly head of terrorism,” said Duterte on Friday, September 2. “We will take this as a police matter about terrorism.”

Sources say that Abu Sayyaf was responsible for the attack that killed 14 and injured around 70 in the city where Duterte served as mayor for more than 22 years. Categorized as a terrorist organization by both the Philippines and the United States, the militant group is considered to be an ally of the ISIS and originally funded by al Qaeda.

Equipped with over 400 members, the insurgents are committed to forming a sovereign Islamic state on Mindanao Island, which is also where Davao is located. Known for conducting ransoms and abducting foreigners to help fund their endeavors, Abu Sayyaf’s latest operation transpired as Filipino forces led an offensive attack against the separatists in Sulu province.

Now anticipating more attacks, currently Davao is under tight surveillance with numerous checkpoints scattered throughout the city of two million people. Even though Abu Sayyaf has claimed responsibility for Friday’s detonation, “The Punisher” president is adamant about investigating other potential culprits. Bearing in mind that more than 2,000 Filipinos have been extrajudicially killed since Duterte took office, such military progressions are troubling signs that violence may intensify in the upcoming weeks.

“These are extraordinary times and I supposed that I’m authorized to allow the security forces of this country to do searches,” said Duterte while visiting the battered marketplace. “We’re trying to cope with a crisis now. There is a crisis in this country involving drugs, extrajudicial killings and there seems to be an environment of lawless violence.”

Duterte’s Controversial Track Record with Human Rights

During his candidacy Duterte gained widespread support for his “no nonsense” platform against drugs–yet 10 weeks into his presidential tenure the international community had already condemned Duterte’s policies as draconian. Although he is praised by some for his disciplinarian approach to combating drug addiction in the Philippines, others lament the manner in which he is allowing citizens to be persecuted without any legal representation.

According to Sputnik News, Duterte could very well resort to using similar tactics in his response to Abu Sayyaf’s recent belligerence. For example, as police units continue to collaborate with neighborhood patrol squads, accused drug users are being rounded up in “knock and plead” operations where they are expected to voluntarily surrender or face retaliation.

Criticized for encouraging vigilante violence by offering rewards to would-be assassins, the professionally trained lawyer has also angered the United Nations for his observed disregard on human rights, saying that “junkies are not humans” to begin with and that they’re not worthy of second chances.

On top of this, Duterte earned the reputation for being unapologetically brash after making some disparaging comments over the rape and murder of an Australian missionary in 1989–saying, “I was angry she was raped, yes that was one thing. But she was so beautiful, I think the mayor should have been first. What a waste.”

Jacob Atkins
Jacob Atkins is a freelance blogger and contributor for Law Street Media. After studying print journalism and international relations at American University, Jacob now resides in Madrid where he is teaching English, pursuing multimedia reporting projects and covering global news. Contact Jacob at



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