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Netflix series glosses over Philippine drug war advocates say

MANILA (UCAN): “We call on Netflix to stop giving an audience to a show that aims to justify extrajudicial killings,” read a statement issued by a group of rights advocates, lawyers, and activists. 
 
They were demanding that the online entertainment giant stop streaming Amo (boss), an action series tackling the controversial and bloody war on drugs being waged by the government of Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte.
 
“This savage disregard for human rights is sanctioned by the Philippine government. It does not need another apologist,” the statement said.
 
Amo tells the story of a student, Joseph, who starts out as a small-time drug peddler but eventually gets tangled up in the violent circle of drug lords, crooked cops, and corrupt government officials.
 
The group expressed deep concern over the screening of the series, which they claim dramatises the drug problem in the country and is presented from the skewed view of the director.
 
Brillante Mendoza, who has garnered several international film awards, including Best Director at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, shows the drug problem from the point of view of both victims and victimiser.
 
In a Twitter post hours after Amo was made available on Netflix, the director said Filipinos have to look beyond what the pictures show.
 
“At the end of the day, it is not about being controversial, but simply being truthful about the issues that surround us,” Mendoza said.
 
“We have to acknowledge that there are problems going on and face reality,” he added.
 
In an earlier statement promoting the series, Mendoza said the government’s anti-narcotics campaign is a necessary evil to address pressing issues linked to illegal drugs in the Philippines.
 
Justine Balane of the advocacy group, Akbayan Youth, called it “insensitive of Mendoza to dismiss the human rights violations, the lives lost, the trauma the families have to deal with, as simply necessary.”
 
He said, “Nothing (can) justify the killings that have been happening.” 
 
Various human rights groups assert that the war against drugs has claimed the lives of over 20,322 people since it started in July 2016.
 
However, the Philippine National Police claim that only 3,967 of the deaths happened during police operations, while the 16,355 others were “deaths under investigation.”
 
Most victims of the drug-related killings came from poor urban families.
 
In a statement, Human Rights Watch said Amo appeared “to gloss over the vicious reality of Duterte’s drug war.”
 
The international human rights group added that the government, which paints the drug war with a “ludicrous veneer of civility and lawfulness,” would be pleased with the show.
 
Luzviminda Siapo, mother of 19-year-old Raymart Siapo, who was killed by anti-narcotics vigilantes, has started a change.org petition calling on Netflix to cancel the show.
 
Siapo, who denied that her handicapped son was selling marijuana, said the war on drugs is not the solution to the drug problems facing the country and that there was no moral justification for such widespread killing.
 
“Thousands of Filipinos have already lost loved ones to this murderous campaign. Airing Amo will only bastardise their grief,” read the statement from the rights groups. 

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