I spent a long time planning my trip to The Philippines. After scrutinizing travel guides and blog posts, Pinterest boards and maps, I’d finally settled on an itinerary to visit the island of Palawan. I’d see the underground river in Puerto Princesa and go scuba diving in El Nido. I’d heard The Philippines is a beautiful country with friendly people and a rich culture, and I was looking forward to my trip there. But since becoming aware of the human rights abuses currently taking place as part of the Filipino government’s war on drugs, I’ve decided I simply can’t in good conscience support The Philippines with my tourist dollars.
Since Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte’s election in May, over 2,000 Filipinos have been murdered by police without trial. Often these killings take place in public – victims are abducted by masked death squads and their bodies are dumped in the streets as a message to others. In some cases, the victims’ heads are wrapped in packing tape and signs reading “drug dealer” or “pusher” are hung on their corpses as a signal to the media that the murder need not be investigated.
It is not uncommon for innocent bystanders, including children, to be killed during the police murders, for which Duterte and his government express little remorse.
I refuse to be a tourist in a country where such flagrant acts of human rights abuses are taking place. Government-sanctioned murder without trial is unquestionably wrong, morally and legally. It is an affront to human rights and the rule of law everywhere, and I won’t pretend it isn’t happening just so I can lay on a beautiful beach. Spending money there would at best be turning a blind eye to the government’s actions and at worst implicitly condoning them. Tourism accounts for over 10% of The Philippines’ GDP, so when travelers choose to spend their money elsewhere, it matters.
I truly believe Filipinos are good people who want the best for their families and their country, but in this they are severely misguided. Violence begets violence, and Duterte is attempting to use drug dealers and addicts as a scapegoat to avoid addressing the country’s underlying economic and social problems. If this unchecked extrajudicial slaughter continues, innocent people will increasingly become victims and vigilante crime will become epidemic, meanwhile drug use will not decline.
If you are thinking about taking a trip to The Philippines, I would ask you to reconsider. Evil triumphs when good people do nothing, and you can make a difference by taking your money to another destination. You can make it clear to the Filipino government that they can’t count on foreign money so long as they continue down this destructive path.
I hope things will change in The Philippines and that its people will realize how misguided their president is. I hope to someday visit a stable and just Philippines so I can experience its rich culture, friendly people, and beautiful geography without reservation.
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