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The rise of vigilantism in the Philippines and around the world

In the Philippines and in parts of Latin America, extrajudicial violence is surging. Police and civilians alike are killing suspected drug dealers and users. This is taking place in countries plagued by corruption and drug crime, where citizens feel they can't trust government or the justice system to control violence. Michael Enright talks to Gema Santamaria, one of this hemisphere's leading experts on lynching and other forms of vigilantism.
A woman hugs her husband, next to a placard which reads "I'm a pusher", who was shot dead by an unidentified gunman in Manila on July 23, 2016. There has been a surge in killings by anti-drug vigilantes who leave victims' corpses on city streets wrapped in packaging tape with signs accusing them of being drug dealers. (NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Last June, a foul-mouthed provocateur named Rodrigo Duterte was elected President of the Philippines.

He came to office with a pledge to stamp drug crime out, by any violent means necessary. He encourages police and civilians alike to kill drug dealers and users. 

Since he took office, several thousand suspected drug dealers and users have been killed by police and vigilantes. Human rights advocates and leaders around the world have expressed their alarm — but in a recent poll, his approval rating remained above 75 per cent. 

[Lynching] is a form of extrajudicial violence, or extralegal violence, that is public ... perpetrators want people to see this, as a spectacle of violence. It is particularly cruel. In other words, it involves, always, some form of "over-killing." It's not just about causing the death of the victim, but actually dehumanizing the body. - Gema Santamaria

It's a reminder that vigilante killings are no mere historical relic of the US South, where African-Americans were terrorized by the regime of lynching for decades in the 19th and 20th Centuries. And it might be said that the Philippines are just catching up with the practice of extrajudicial violence in several Latin American countries.

Gema Santamaria is a leading expert on vigilantism. She is an assistant professor and the director of the International Relations Undergraduate Program at ITAM, a university in Mexico City. Professor Santamaria recently spoke with Michael Enright from a studio in Austin, Texas.

Click 'listen' above to hear the interview. 


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