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Philippines UN Human Rights Day

Thousands protest human rights violations in the Philippines

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is seeking an extension of martial law he declared in the country's south because, according to government officials, there are continuing threats from ISIS-allied militant groups and communist guerrillas.

Protesters in the capital of Manila marched against the prospect of prolonged military rule, and criticized the president for his bloody anti-drug crackdown. The event on Sunday occurred as the world celebrated the 69th International Human Rights Day.

Philippines Martial Law
Protesters hold slogans during a protest against Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila, Philippines on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. Protesters were calling for the ouster of Duterte and denounced his alleged dictator-style rule. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

According to Human Rights Watch, the drug war in the Philippines has seen at least 12,000 people, including dozens of children, killed by police and vigilantes since June 2016. Victims of these extrajudicial executions are often left dead in the streets, simply because they are suspected of pushing or using drugs. There is often no accountability for the perpetrators of the murders.

Philippines UN Human Rights Day
Protesters display an effigy depicting victims in the so-called war on drugs under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's government during a rally in Manila to mark International Human Rights Day, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. Thousands of protesters were to march towards the Presidential Palace as they accuse Duterte of human rights violations in his more than a year in office. Signs worn by the protesters read: "Stop killings." (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Philippines UN Human Rights Day
Protesters wearing masks with a message join in a rally in Manila to mark International Human Rights Day, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Meanwhile, on the island of Mindanao, military rule that has been in place since May, expires Dec. 31st, and the president is expected to call for an extension of martial law because of threats from militant groups and communist rebels.

The communist rebellion has gone on for 48 years, while clashes with ISIS-allied combatants reached a tipping point earlier this year. The siege of Marawi, in Mindanao, lasted from May 23 until Oct. 23, when Duterte declared it over. In that time, over 1,100 militants and civilians were killed, and about half a million people were displaced from the fighting. The government received criticism for its bombing of militant-held areas which killed civilians, and some escapees from the militant-held areas were treated as militants themselves by the government, and subsequently detained or tortured.

Despite the official declaration of the conflict's end, Duterte wants to maintain a military hold on Mindanao.

Philippines Duterte
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivering a speech on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
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When Duterte was mayor of Davao City on Mindanao from 1988 to 2013, he was accused of running an extrajudicial unit known as the Davao Death Squad (DDS), which carried out at least 1,000 murders, according to Human Rights Watch. Duterte and other officials continue to deny involvement in these death squads.

Duterte's alleged history of brutal crackdowns on Mindanao seems to have been a precursor to the widespread, deadly drug war of the past year. And if Duterte extends the military rule in the southern part of Mindanao, protesters and left-wing groups fear killings will continue with no accountability.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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