SAO PAULO — Barbarism has actually become popular in the Philippines. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 78% of Filipinos support the "license to kill" President Rodrigo Duterte has given the police against those accused, or even just suspected, of dealing or consuming drugs.
The government proudly announced the death of 3,400 people since Duterte took office in June 2016, but Human Rights Watch says the figure is more than double that, at more than 7,000.
The international outcry over this blatant violation of due process and human rights has found no echo in the Philippines: According to the Pew study, 86% of those interviewed said they had a favorable view of Duterte. Perhaps that is because a vast majority (78%) are happy with the country's economic situation.
When the economy flourishes, the government gets good approval ratings; this is true for any country, not only the Philippines. But it becomes a social pathology when satisfaction with the economy leads to the turning of a blind eye to state-sponsored barbarism.
Clearly, Duterte does not agree that his policy is barbaric. In fact, he recently said he would authorize the killing of his own son, Paulo "Pulong" Duterte, 42, if allegations made by an opposition lawmaker that he was involved with drugs were true. In a recent address to government officials, Duterte said he had told his son: "My order is to kill you if you are caught. And I will protect the police who kill you if it is true."
A growing sentiment in Brazil that a good criminal is a dead criminal.
My fear is that this type of state-sponsored savagery might gain support in other countries, like Brazil. The chaos that has taking over Rio de Janeiro, with more than 100 police officers killed this year alone, and the fact that the authorities are losing the war against drug trafficking can only strengthen the growing sentiment in Brazil that "a good criminal is a dead criminal."
It is worrying enough that 60% of Brazilian adults admitted, in a recent study published by the Brazilian Forum on Public Security, that they agreed with the following statement: "Most of our social issues would be solved if we could get rid of immoral people, delinquents and perverts."
On the other hand, a study by the Datafolha polling institute showed that support for the death penalty went down from 43% to 42% between 2014 and 2017. Common sense would suggest then that the number of people supporting extrajudicial killings, like those practiced in the Philippines, would be even lower.
But there are two factors that should cause great concern regarding the spread of savagery in Brazil: First, the notorious degradation of public security in the country in general, and particularly in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's great international showcase for all that is good, or in this case, bad about our country.
Second, the emergence of Jair Bolsonaro, a potential presidential candidate in the 2018 election whose discourse on crime echos Duterte's. As Ana Estela de Sousa Pinto, a Folha reporter who wrote a remarkable series from the Philippines end of last year recently wrote, "Bolsonaro has already chosen his main enemy: criminals, whom he has pledged to either arrest or execute, depending on the moment."