July 15, 2020

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Drug-related violence cause for concern in Filipino community

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/8/2017 (1053 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The contrast between the peaceful atmosphere of Filipino festivals in Canada and the brutal violence of a drug war being waged half a world away in The Philippines couldn’t be any starker.

As thousands flocked downtown Saturday to celebrate the sixth annual Manitoba Filipino Street Festival, socialize and munch on ethnic delicacies, it wasn’t lost on anyone there’s no peace on the streets in Manilla these days.

A Filipino teenager was at the centre of the latest outcry against the president’s bloody crackdown on illegal drugs in Manilla on Saturday when he was buried.

The 17-year-old student, Kian Loyd delos Santos, wanted to become a police officer. He ended up being one of more than 80 drug and crime suspects who were killed in purported gun battles with police over three days this month in the bloodiest few days of President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.

In Winnipeg, the city’s population of Filipino Canadians is well aware of the violence.

Thousands watch The Filipino Channel broadcast daily from Manilla.

"We see everything on TV every day. So all of us are afraid for our relatives. That’s what we talk about. We really don’t know the extent of it so we don’t want to give opinions," festival organizer, Winnipeg Filipino newspaper publisher Ley Navarro said Saturday.

During one televised hearing from The Philippines this week, for instance, one of the country’s top government human-rights officials expressed astonishment at police claims most of the more than 3,200 drug suspects they have shot since the crackdown began last year fought back, prompting officers to shoot them.

Aside from those deaths, more than 2,000 others have died in drug-related killings, including attacks by motorcycle-riding masked gunmen, who human-rights groups allege are policemen in disguise or their civilian hit men. Police deny such claims.

The country’s president has expressed extraordinary support for police who are enforcing his crackdown.

Grieving families offer a far different perspective. Delos Santos’s parents and some of their neighbours pointed to village security camera video that shows a man, who they say was delos Santos, being held by both arms and dragged away shortly before he was shot in a dark, muddy alley near a canal.

They said the video showed the teen was in police custody, clearly contradicting police claims that he tried to escape and that he had a pistol with him.

Police officers linked to the killing have acknowledged they are the ones in the video, but they said the man they were dragging away was someone else, not the teenager.

Over here, it’s hard to sort out the discrepancies in official accounts. At least one Filipino Canadian said in Winnipeg Saturday he backed the violence as a way to crack down on the rampant drug culture.

There are also plenty of others who question why the deaths appear to be among the young, the marginalized and the vulnerable with few reports of any major drug lords caught up in the dragnet.

— Alexandra Paul with files from wire services

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