Groups urge Apple to take down apps encouraging Duterte's drug war

By Gaea Katreena Cabico

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In a letter dated October 10, 131 organizations including human rights and drug policy reform groups asked Apple to immediately take down applications that promote extrajudicial killings and violence. The groups also requested the tech giant to review the applications and issue an apology for hosting “insensitive” content. Photo from Asian Network of People who Use Drugs

MANILA, Philippines (First published at 10:54 p.m. on Oct. 12) — More than a hundred civil society organizations worldwide wrote an open letter to Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook for the company to remove applications promoting President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on illegal drugs.

In a letter, 131 organizations—among them human rights and drug policy reform groups—asked the tech giant to immediately take down applications that normalize extrajudicial killings and violence.

“These games valorize and normalize the emerging tyranny of Duterte's presidency and his government's disregard for human rights principles. In virtual reality, these games may seem harmless and fun. But when they are placed within the context of existing realities, of real murders of people and the impunity of law enforcement, then these games become offensive and distasteful,” the October 10 letter read.

The applications, among others, include “Fighting Crime 2,” “Duterte Knows Kung Fu: Pinoy Crime Fighter,” “Duterte Running Man Challenge,” “Tsip Bato: Ang Bumangga Giba!” and “Duterte vs. Zombies.”

The groups said these games violate the App Store Review Guidelines.

“Where Apple is a staunch proponent of human values, community and connectedness, your promoting, through the App store, of the killing of people who use drugs is in clear contradiction of your values as an organization,” it read.

The groups also requested Apple to review the applications and issue an apology for hosting “insensitive” content.

“It is entirely inappropriate for Apple to be promoting the actions, policies and discourses of a politician and state that have resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people,” the letter read.

It added that the inclusion of these applications was “unacceptable that Apple is tolerant to making profit out of people’s unjust deaths and misery.”

The letter was sent through the Asian Network of People Who Use Drugs, a Thailand-based foundation representing drug users.

Apple has yet to respond to the letter.

Duterte’s Drug War

According to the latest statistics released by the Philippine National Police, there have been 6,225 drug-related deaths since July 2016.

The PNP said 3,850 have "died in police operations," suggesting these are drug suspects who engaged arresting officers in shootouts.

The authorities also noted that Filipinos should not be worried for their lives as the possibility of being an extrajudicial killing victim is “very remote” as there is no case considered as an EJK as of now in the country.

READPNP: 6,225 drug-related deaths, no extrajudicial killings

However, human rights groups estimate a higher death toll, with some approximations going as high as 13,000 individuals killed in the course of the administration’s anti-narcotics campaign.

Last month, 39 nations expressed concern over the rising number of drug-related killings and called on the government to end these deaths

According to the 2017 Global Impunity Index, the Philippines has the highest level of impunity among 69 countries after scoring 75.6 points.

READ39 countries worry about killings, climate of impunity in Philippines

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