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Activists target Netflix series on Philippines' drug war

Rights groups say Duterte's war on narcotics has claimed 20,322 lives since July 2016, want TV show banned

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Updated: April 12, 2018 05:48 AM GMT
Activists target Netflix series on Philippines' drug war

Raymart Siapo, a handicapped 19 year old, was abducted by masked men hours before his body was found north of Manila. Luzviminda Siapo, Raymart's mother, has launched a petition calling on Netflix to cancel its TV series Amo which critics say glorifies the Philippines' war on drugs. (Photo by Vincent Go/ucanews.com)

Human rights groups in the Philippines are demanding that Netflix stops streaming a television series that tackles the government's controversial war on narcotics.

The action series Amo by independent film director Brillante Mendoza is set against the backdrop of President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war against illegal drugs.

Amo tells the story of a student 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.

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"We call on Netflix to stop giving an audience to a show that aims to justify extrajudicial killings," a statement issued by a group of rights advocates, lawyers, and activists read.

The group expressed "deep concern" over the screening of the series, which they claim dramatizes the drug problem in the country and is presented from the "skewed view" of the director.

Mendoza, who won 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 "victimizer."

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," said Mendoza.

"We have to acknowledge that there are problems going on and face reality," he added.

Luzviminda, a migrant worker, cries upon seeing the body of her slain son, Raymart, who was killed by anti-narcotics vigilantes in 2017. (Photo by Vincent Go/ucanews.com)


In an earlier statement promoting Amo, 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 activist group Akbayan Youth said it is "insensitive of Mendoza to dismiss the human rights violations, the lives lost, the trauma the families have to deal with, as simply necessary."

"Nothing would justify the killings that have been happening," he said.

Various human rights groups claim the war against drugs has claimed the lives of over 20,322 people since it started in July 2016.

The Philippine National Police, however, said only 3,967 of these 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.

"This savage disregard for human rights is sanctioned by the Philippine government. It does not need another apologist," read a statement assembled by the human rights groups.

Luzviminda Siapo, mother of 19-year-old Raymart Siapo, who was killed by anti-narcotics vigilantes, has started a change.org petition to call 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 bastardize their grief," read the statement by the rights groups. 

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