Hundreds of protesters in the Philippines marched in the capital Manila on Saturday to protest President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war which has killed almost 6,000 people through widespread police and military crackdowns on traffickers and users.
The protesters marched through the center of Manila close to the presidential palace, with many wearing white masks. Black stars were also used to symbolize an upcoming “black Christmas” for Filipino families affected by the drug war violence.
A dummy representing the thousands of drug war victims was placed on the ground with its hands tied behind its back, with a sign reading “Duterte is the reason, don't imitate him,” in reference to signs placed on corpses warning others from using and selling drugs.
Placards and banners included “Stop killing us,” "Heal, don't harm," and "Bigas, hindi bala (Rice, not bullets)." Hashtags #stopthekillings, #endimpunity were used on social media. Many were also protested against recent proposals to reinstate the death penalty in the country.
Protests were held in other parts of the Philippines as well, including General Santos City in the far-south of the country. A human rights concert was also held in Quezon City to the northeast of Manila.
The protests coincide with the International Day of Human Rights, which marks 68 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights groups in the Philippines and around the world have been shocked at the human toll left in the wake of Duterte's drug policy since he came to power in June.
Most of the victims have been low-level users and dealers from disadvantaged backgrounds who have been the victims of extrajudicial and vigilante killings. Hundreds of thousands of drugs users have been forced to “surrender” to authorities and undertake forced drug rehabilitation.
Earlier in November, Duterte warned human rights activists critical of his approach would be blamed if the drug problem got worse. “The human rights (defenders) said I ordered the killings. I told them ‘OK, Let’s stop´. We'll let them (drug users) multiply so that when it’s harvest time more people will die,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.
Despite the well-documented violence under his rule, Duterte remains a popular figure, will an October poll revealing that he enjoyed 80 percent of trust among Filipinos.