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Years Later, Philippines Reckons With Duterte’s Brutal Drug War

When Rodrigo Duterte was running for president eight years ago, he vowed to order the police and the military to find drug users and traffickers to kill them, promising immunity for such killings. In the months after, police officers and vigilantes mercilessly gunned down tens of thousands of people in summary executions.

Even now, two years after Mr. Duterte left office, there has been little legal reckoning with the wave of killings: Only eight police officers have been given prison sentences, in connection with just four cases, with one verdict that came this month. And though rights groups say that there have been fewer such killings since Mr. Duterte left, and far fewer involving agents of the government, a culture of violence and impunity has maintained a troubling hold in the Philippines.

In recent months, the legacy of Mr. Duterte’s so-called war on drugs has slowly begun to get more official attention. Lawmakers are holding several public hearings into the violence. Senior police officers spoke at the congressional hearing, as did victims’ relatives, who relived their horrors and again pleaded for justice.

When Mr. Duterte left office, his administration said 6,252 people had been killed by security forces — all described by officials as “drug suspects.” Rights groups say the overall death toll stands at roughly 30,000.