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 		 [IBM’s installation, known as the Intelligent Operations Center,
promised to enhance authorities’ ability to monitor residents in
real time with cutting-edge video analytics, multichannel
communications technology, and GPS-enabled patrol vehicles.]
[https://portside.org/] 

 INSIDE THE VIDEO SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM IBM BUILT FOR PHILIPPINE
STRONGMAN RODRIGO DUTERTE  
[https://portside.org/2019-04-15/inside-video-surveillance-program-ibm-built-philippine-strongman-rodrigo-duterte]


 

 George Joseph 
 March 20, 2019
The Intercept
[https://theintercept.com/2019/03/20/rodrigo-duterte-ibm-surveillance/?utm_source=The%20Intercept%20Newsletter&utm_campaign=7c46173133-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_03_23&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e00a5122d3-7c46173133-131676853]


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 _ IBM’s installation, known as the Intelligent Operations Center,
promised to enhance authorities’ ability to monitor residents in
real time with cutting-edge video analytics, multichannel
communications technology, and GPS-enabled patrol vehicles. _ 

 , Soohee Cho/The Intercept, Getty Images 

 

Jaypee Larosa was standing in front of an internet cafe in Davao City,
a metropolitan hub on the Philippine island of Mindanao, when three
men in dark jackets pulled up on a motorcycle and opened fire. That
summer evening, Larosa, 20, was killed. After the shooting, according
to witnesses
[https://www.hrw.org/report/2009/04/06/you-can-die-any-time/death-squad-killings-mindanao],
one of the men reportedly removed Larosa’s baseball cap and said,
“Son of a bitch. This is not the one.” Then they drove off.

Larosa’s murder, on July 17, 2008, was one of hundreds
[https://www.hrw.org/report/2009/04/06/you-can-die-any-time/death-squad-killings-mindanao] of
extrajudicial killings carried out in Davao City, now a city of 1.6
million, while Rodrigo Duterte, now president of the Philippines, was
mayor there. Years before launching his notorious, bloody
[https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/19/dutertes-philippines-drug-war-death-toll-rises-above-5000] “drug
war
[https://www.philstar.com/pilipino-star-ngayon/bansa/2016/10/12/1632667/ejk-inamin-ni-digong]”
across the country, Duterte presided over similar tactics at the local
level. During his tenure as mayor, according to a 2009 investigation
[https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/philippines0409webwcover_0.pdf] by
Human Rights Watch, death squads assassinated street children, drug
dealers, and petty criminals; in some cases, researchers found
evidence of the complicity or direct involvement of government
officials and police.

Duterte has consistently denied any connection to this campaign of
killings, but at times, his support for
[https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/297514/what-went-before-the-davao-death-squad] the
violence was barely concealed. As mayor, Duterte would publicly
announce the names or locations of “criminals,” and some of
them would later
[https://www.hrw.org/report/2009/04/06/you-can-die-any-time/death-squad-killings-mindanao] be
killed, according to human rights groups and local newspapers
[https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/735457/davao-drug-suspect-dead-after-duterte-ultimatum].
Although it stopped short of accusing Duterte himself of misconduct or
direct involvement, the Philippines’ Office of the
Ombudsman partially acknowledged
[https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/in-depth/137446-davao-death-squad-rodrigo-duterte-chr-resolution] in 2012
[https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/169081/21-pnp-officers-fined-for-2005-2008-spate-of-killings-in-davao-city] the
police’s role in tolerating the killings, finding that 21 Davao City
police officials and officers were “remiss in their duty” for
failing to solve them.

But this potential complicity in human rights violations did not stop
IBM from agreeing to provide surveillance technology to law
enforcement in Davao City. On June 27, 2012
[https://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/38152.wss], three
years after the devastating Human Rights Watch report, IBM issued a
short news release announcing an agreement with Davao to upgrade its
police command center in order to “further enhance public safety
operations in the city.” IBM’s installation, known as the
Intelligent Operations Center, promised
[https://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/38152.wss] to
enhance authorities’ ability to monitor residents in real time with
cutting-edge video analytics, multichannel communications technology,
and GPS-enabled patrol vehicles. Less than two months later, the
Philippine Commission on Human Rights published
[https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/08/16/philippines-prosecute-officials-death-squad-killings] a
resolution condemning Davao authorities for fostering a “climate of
impunity” with regard to the killings, recommending that the
National Bureau of Investigation undertake an impartial investigation
into potential obstruction of justice by local police officials.
(Duterte has recently condemned
[https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/18/philippines-dutertes-drug-war-claims-12000-lives] the
commission, questioning its motives and suggesting that it should be
abolished.)

The 2012 IBM deal was signed by Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter, Sara
Duterte, who was Davao City’s nominal
[https://www.ft.com/content/9d6225dc-e805-11e6-967b-c88452263daf] mayor
at the time, while her term-limited
[https://www.britannica.com/topic/Rodrigo-Duterte] father served as
vice mayor; under Sara Duterte, the killings continued
[http://www.cbcpnews.com/cbcpnews/?p=76531]. The system, according to
local news reports, was deployed in June 2013
[https://durianburgdavao.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/duterte-credits-inday-sara-for-davao-citys-james-bond-gadgets/],
just as Rodrigo Duterte was about to return to the mayoral seat he had
already held for nearly two decades. The police command center, Sara
Duterte told the Durian Post, “is now infused with IBM’s IOC
technology,” allowing police to “shift from responding to critical
events to anticipating and preventing them.”

While The Intercept and Type Investigations were unable to locate any
reference to Davao’s death squads in IBM’s public corporate
documents about the program, a 2014 company overview
[https://www.scribd.com/document/251701696/IBM-Smarter-Cities-Overview-Cities-must-become-smarter] of
the installation made clear that IBM knew “illegal drugs,”
predictive policing, and crime suppression were among Davao City
security forces’ “priority areas.” From 2013 through late 2016,
when one Davao security official estimated the IBM program stopped
being in active use, Filipino human rights activists who worked
closely with the Commission on Human Rights claimed to
have documented [http://www.cbcpnews.com/cbcpnews/?p=76531] at least
213 extrajudicial killings carried out by Davao death squads.

Davao City officials did not respond to queries related to IBM’s
video surveillance system or its potential role in extrajudicial
killing operations during its run. But three police and city security
officials interviewed in Davao City last year said the program had
strengthened police video monitoring capabilities, which they said had
proved useful in Davao’s controversial war on so-called drug
syndicates [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDwOGX5F4Mw]. That
war, human rights reports
[https://www.hrw.org/report/2009/04/06/you-can-die-any-time/death-squad-killings-mindanao] and
former death squad participants
[https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/882306/lascanas-drug-lords-go-to-davao-to-lie-low] have
shown, often targeted low-level drug users and peddlers, rather than
major traffickers.

Amado Picardal, a former spokesperson of the Coalition Against Summary
Executions, a Davao-based human rights group, called IBM’s work
“unethical,” given that some of the killings had been linked to
Duterte’s police in the years before its deal with Davao City.

IBM declined to respond to queries about its human rights record in
Davao City. IBM spokesperson Edward Barbini briefly noted that the
company “no longer supplies technology to the Intelligent Operations
Center in Davao, and has not done so since 2012,” though he declined
to clarify whether IBM serviced the technology after that point, and
IBM’s public filings mention the program as ongoing after that date.
“The Philippines city of Davao’s 1.5 million citizens will be the
first in Asia to benefit from an Intelligent Operations Center,” an
April 3, 2013, IBM disclosure reads. “A new early warning system
will monitor key risk indicators so agencies can take quick action
before situations escalate.”

In the years since the IBM program was phased out, Philippine police
interest in cutting-edge surveillance infrastructure has hardly waned.
National authorities are now looking to deploy real-time facial
recognition across the country, in a project called “Safe
Philippines,” and have considered technology from a variety of
international vendors, including the Chinese telecom Huawei.

In December, a local newspaper reported
[https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/12/13/1876639/dilg-chinese-firm-install-p20-billion-cctv-network] that
the Philippines had secured a 20 billion-peso loan for the
installation of thousands of surveillance cameras across Davao City
and metro Manila in collaboration with a Chinese firm, an installation
that would reportedly include a national command center and feature
facial and vehicle recognition software. In a January interview on
Filipino television, Epimaco Densing III, undersecretary of the
Department of the Interior and Local Government, said
[https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/31/19/dilg-safe-philippines-can-help-thwart-another-jolo-attack] that
a goal of the project is to detect the faces of terrorist suspects and
prevent crimes before they take place.

Filipino activists worry that such capabilities could facilitate human
rights violations. Over the last three years, parts of the country
have been under temporary declarations
[https://www.manilatimes.net/house-ready-to-extend-martial-law-if-duterte-wants-it/436220/] of
martial law, and Duterte’s “war on drugs” has left at least
5,000 and possibly as many as 27,000 dead (police and human rights
groups’ estimates vary widely
[https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/19/dutertes-philippines-drug-war-death-toll-rises-above-5000]).
Those killed have included anti-Duterte activists
[https://www.amnesty.org.au/philippines-political-human-rights-activists-killed-impunity/], elected
officials
[http://time.com/5330071/philippines-mayors-political-assassination-duterte/],
and outspoken Catholic priests
[https://www.rappler.com/nation/205165-catholics-outrage-filipino-priests-killings].
Currently, Duterte is campaigning to modify the constitution, a move
that could
[https://www.cfr.org/blog/implications-dutertes-proposed-constitutional-changes] afford
powers
[https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/2154392/draft-constitution-proposes-giving-philippine-president] to
the executive to further the suppression of political opponents.

Surveillance Capabilities in Davao

In June 2012, Mayor Sara Duterte announced
[https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/city-of-davao-and-ibm-collaborate-to-build-a-smarter-city-160480725.html] a
128 million-peso deal, worth just over $3 million at the time, with
IBM to improve its real-time monitoring capabilities. The announcement
promised to “scale up” Davao’s Public Safety and Security
Command Center, or PSSCC, with improved communications and
surveillance technology.

Sayaji Shinde, a former IBM sales leader who says he was part of the
team that secured the command center deal, recalls that his team was
eager to partner with the Duterte administration. “If you look at
the Dutertes as such, they focus a lot on public-sector security,”
said Shinde. “And I think that is one of the drivers, for even us,
to go and spend our time and advise them because we saw that they are
really keen to ensure that the city become more safer.”

To seal the deal, Shinde said, IBM pointed to the international
recognition that such a project would bring Davao. “That is
precisely what we sold them: ‘You know if you do this, work with us,
and it becomes first of its kind, then this will be highlighted
globally.’”

In the initial phase of the project, IBM mapped Davao’s police
cameras onto a geographic information system, allowing operators to
quickly access camera feeds near locations of interest, Shinde said.

According to Shinde, the rollout also featured a multichannel
communications system, allowing police, traffic, and defense personnel
to communicate with one another. It also included video analytics
technology that automatically tagged objects captured on camera, like
cars and people, by their physical attributes. The tags included the
objects’ size, speed, color, trajectory, and direction, according to
a November 2014 IBM presentation
[https://www.scribd.com/document/251701696/IBM-Smarter-Cities-Overview-Cities-must-become-smarter] to
the Asian Development Bank, allowing command center operators to comb
through camera footage in search of suspects by their descriptions.
(IBM had refined these kinds of surveillance capabilities
using secret access to New York Police Department camera footage
[https://theintercept.com/2018/09/06/nypd-surveillance-camera-skin-tone-search/],
as The Intercept and Type Investigations reported in September.)

“That was probably the first-ever video analytics surveillance that
was done in Asia,” said Shinde, noting that the system could be used
in the wake of robberies or murders to track a suspect’s car before
and after a crime. The software was “very user-friendly,” he
noted, so Davao security officials at the command center could easily
have become competent in the program’s object search capabilities.

The 2014 IBM presentation on its Davao project also mentions a tool
known as “Face Capture,” which boxes out images of faces in real
time and stores them for retroactive analysis
[https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByBx73lqSsgjZGd1cDIySk9fOGM/view?usp=sharing].
In a recent interview, Emmanuel Jaldon, head of Davao City’s 911
Center, claimed that this functionality was planned but never formally
deployed. Barbini also claims that IBM “never supplied facial
recognition capability for the center.” And Shinde, who left IBM in
2014, said that Face Capture was not integrated while he was there
during the first phase of the Davao project. But a February 2015
promotional video for the PSSCC, highlighting the command center’s
monitoring capabilities and ability to “suppress all forms of
criminalities,” features a clip of IBM’s Face Capture interface in
action, gathering facial images from pedestrians on the streets of
Davao City. Footage of what appears to be the IBM Davao City
dashboard, pictured above, shows the software boxing out and
collecting facial images as people walked past street cameras.

The program also helped authorities monitor “crowd behavior” and
instances of “loitering” — a crime
[https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-crime/thousands-of-philippine-poor-nabbed-in-dutertes-latest-war-on-loitering-idUSKBN1KE0MT] that
Duterte has cracked down on nationally as president — according to
the 2014 IBM presentation
[https://www.scribd.com/document/251701696/IBM-Smarter-Cities-Overview-Cities-must-become-smarter].

IBM’s Technology in Duterte’s War on Crime

When asked what assurances he was given about how the surveillance
program would be used, Shinde defended IBM’s sale, saying that it
was intended for legitimate public safety activities, such as
responding to fires. “That particular implementation was not meant
to track people,” he said. “It was meant to track the incidents
and faster responses to those incidences.”

But in interviews in the command center, the nearby 911 center, and
other locations in Davao City, local law enforcement officials
familiar with the IBM program told The Intercept and Type
Investigations that the technology had assisted them in carrying out
Duterte’s controversial anti-crime agenda.

Manuel Gaerlan, a former regional Philippines National Police chief
superintendent [https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/1757362], said the
command center, which IBM substantially upgraded, functions as a force
multiplier in counter-drug operations. “It records events so it’s
easier to identify the perpetrators, then you can go after the member
of the syndicates,” he said. “If you can see more areas, you can
send patrol to respond. It’s like putting more men on the ground.
And you can put more cameras in drug areas.”

Jaldon, the 911 chief, pointed to IBM’s object tagging and search
feature as the most useful tool the program gave law enforcement in
counter-drug operations, especially when it came to
“backtracking,” or investigating incidents after the fact.
“After an event, the system helps find them quickly, give you
awareness,” he said. “It helps in investigations to slice and dice
by time, color, type of physical feature.” Most significantly, he
said the program’s real-time alerts could also increase
authorities’ “awareness of suspects’ presence.”

Antonio Boquiren, a training and research officer at the Davao command
center, said the video capabilities helped police crack down on
low-level quality of life violations.

“Whether it’s criminality, smoking, or jaywalking, any violation
of ordinance is a crime and a police is sent,” he said, laughing.
“People who smoke complain, ‘How did you catch us before we even
lit?’ The police officer will point to the CCTV.”

The targeting of petty criminals, gang members, and street children by
Davao death squads figures prominently in the 2009 Human Rights
Watch report
[https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/07/30/philippine-death-squads]. And
a 2015 promotional
[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGZCFc3umCQ] video featuring IBM’s
technology shows authorities aggressively going after low-level
crimes. One clip highlights a young man, caught on CCTV, stealing a
bag from a truck. Later, the narrator notes that the technology gives
police faster response times and cuts to footage
[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGZCFc3umCQ] of police officers
chasing after a group of people on the street. One then raises his
baton as if to hit one of them.

A former Philippine Army security consultant with close ties to
Philippine intelligence, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal,
claimed that IBM’s program assisted police not only in monitoring
criminal activities, but also in gathering intelligence on the
activities of the political opposition in Davao. Based on his dealings
with Davao City law enforcement officials, he said he couldn’t rule
out that the data feed was implicated in extrajudicial killings.

Even if IBM’s program was solely used to assist in legitimate police
responses to crime and fires, as Shinde said it was designed to do,
surveillance researchers point out that it could well have enabled
extrajudicial killings, simply by helping police capture or monitor
everyday criminal suspects. The government has long denied the
existence of police death squads, but in the Dutertes’ Davao,
victims of extrajudicial killing were sometimes targeted immediately
[https://www.hrw.org/report/2009/04/06/you-can-die-any-time/death-squad-killings-mindanao] after
being released from police custody, and police frequently killed
suspects during planned raids.

In October 2015, for example, Duterte warned a group of drug dealers
on a street called Dewey Boulevard that they had 48 hours to leave the
city or be killed. “If you are into drugs, I’m warning you,” he
announced, according to local press reports. “I’m giving you 48
hours, 48 hours. If I see you there, I’ll have you killed.” Police
reportedly monitored
[https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/735457/davao-drug-suspect-dead-after-duterte-ultimatum] the
area and relayed that some known dealers had left. But a day after the
warning, police fatally shot Armanuel Atienza, a 38-year-old community
leader, claiming
[https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/735457/davao-drug-suspect-dead-after-duterte-ultimatum] that
he had resisted arrest during a buy-and-bust operation and that they
found a handgun and drugs on his person. Such claims are
suspect. According
[https://www.rappler.com/nation/146455-highlights-matobato-testimony-davao-death-squad] to
2016 Senate testimony by Edgar Matobato, who allegedly served as a
death squad member from 1988 to 2013, Davao police regularly planted
guns and drugs on suspects after killing them. (Duterte has asserted
that he does not know Matobato and has implied that he may have
committed perjury in this testimony. The Duterte administration’s
communications office did not respond to detailed queries related to
the IBM program, or its potential role in human rights violations.)

IBM’s object-tagging capability, for example, could have been used
to locate a suspect by their physical attributes, someone who may then
have become a target of extrajudicial violence, explains Kade
Crockford, a technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union of
Massachusetts, whose research focuses on police surveillance. “Maybe
the system identifies three to four people, then law enforcement are
sent to find those people,” Crockford said. “Maybe that person
isn’t executed on the spot by law enforcement, but police question
him about him and his associates; now he and some of the people he
named make their way on to a list which ends up in the hands of a
death squad.”

Social media posts from a PSSCC department head, archived on a local
blog, suggest that the center, using IBM’s technology, was effective
at nabbing suspected criminals.

In August 2014, that official claimed that police monitored and
caught
[https://www.coolbuster.net/2014/09/street-kids-steal-davao-multicab-driver-income-video.html] a
group of street kids stealing from a cab driver “through the
coordination” of the PSSCC and city police. That December, he
claimed that the Intelligent Operations Center
[https://www.coolbuster.net/2014/12/police-intercept-gun-toting-suspect-with-real-life-big-brother-cams.html] was
a factor in the police surveillance and capture of a man cruising
around Davao City with a gun.

IBM’s “Face Capture” feature, if deployed, also could have
helped authorities locate wanted people in near real time —
including residents on watchlists, according to Crockford. “Imagine
a scenario in which someone in the police force, who has access to
this system and works with the local death squad, producing lists of
people to be killed,” she said. “This technology could help the
police leader to ID a person on the kill list in real time and then
have them deploy the death squads to go get them.”

The Davao command center, according to a local news report, did have
facial recognition capabilities in place by 2014, though the
technology was not identified with IBM. And according to the 2009
Human Rights Watch report, Davao’s death squads were known to rely
in part on photos of targets on their watchlists.

In August 2016, Artemio Jimenez Jr.
[https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/816030/village-chair-shot-dead-2-others-wounded-in-davao-city],
a neighborhood political leader and vocal supporter of Duterte’s war
on drugs, turned himself in to Davao City police after apparently
discovering that he was on a government watchlist of suspected drug
users, offering to be tested for drugs in order to clear his name.
Police tested his urine for methamphetamine and cannabinol, according
to The Inquirer
[https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/816030/village-chair-shot-dead-2-others-wounded-in-davao-city]_,_ tests
that came up negative. Nonetheless, the next month, “unidentified
gunmen” drove up to his car
[http://mindanaodailymirror.com/barangay-captain-killed-davao-ambush-24697/] and
fired repeatedly, killing him and wounding
[https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/98687] his driver and bodyguard.
Police claimed that they were investigating, but never announced a
suspect or motive in the shooting. Nor did they explain how the
assassins knew Jimenez’s location.

IBM’s Public Human Rights Commitments

IBM publicly claims to be “committed to high standards of corporate
responsibility” and to consider the “social concerns” of the
communities in which it operates. IBM’s Human Rights Statement of
Principles
[https://www.ibm.com/ibm/responsibility/ibm_humanrightsprinciples.html] cites
a number of international standards, including the U.N. Guiding
Principles on Business and Human Rights
[https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf],
which calls on corporations to perform due diligence on the “human
rights context prior to a proposed business activity,” identify
“who may be affected,” and project “how the proposed activity
and associated business relationships could have adverse human rights
impacts on those identified.” These standards also call on companies
to proactively track potential human rights abuses related to their
business activities and require “active engagement” in the
remediation of any identified abuses.

IBM’s Securities and Exchange Commission
[https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/51143/000110465913026645/a13-9282_1defa14a.htm] documents
[https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/51143/000110465913015636/a13-6155_18k.htm] and annual
reports
[https://www.ibm.com/annualreport/2012/bin/assets/2012_ibm_annual.pdf] between
2012 and 2016 contain a few scattered mentions of its project in
Davao, but no discussion of any potential human rights concerns or any
preventative measures taken by the company. None of IBM’s corporate
social responsibility
[https://www.ibm.com/ibm/responsibility/reports/report_downloads.html] reports
have ever mentioned its collaboration with Duterte in Davao.

Despite reporting by Human Rights Watch and local papers, Shinde
claimed that the human rights allegations against the Duterte regime
were “not in the news at all during those days.” There was
“nothing said like that about him at that time,” he continued,
pointing out that IBM contracted with Sara Duterte, not her father,
who, he said, “didn’t have such a kind of record.”

Yet when IBM agreed to work with the Duterte family’s administration
in 2012, his regime’s support of extrajudicial killings in Davao
City had been well-established; as early as 2009, he had described
criminals as “a legitimate target for assassination
[https://www.hrw.org/report/2009/04/06/you-can-die-any-time/death-squad-killings-mindanao].”
In 2012, the year IBM signed the deal with Sara Duterte, local human
rights activists claimed to have documented
[http://www.cbcpnews.com/cbcpnews/?p=76531] 61 death squad killings.

According to IBM documents
[https://www.scribd.com/document/251701696/IBM-Smarter-Cities-Overview-Cities-must-become-smarter] and
law enforcement officials, the Philippine National Police also
received information from the surveillance command center. Before the
IBM deal was signed, the Philippine National Police had also been
criticized
[https://www.hrw.org/report/2009/04/06/you-can-die-any-time/death-squad-killings-mindanao] for
failing to investigate death squad killings, and since Duterte became
president, it has played a role
[https://thediplomat.com/2018/01/the-philippine-national-police-reenters-the-war-on-drugs/] in
the deadly national “war on drugs.”

“If they had the technology then, I have no doubt that they used it
and continue to use it to locate the targets for elimination,” said
Picardal, formerly of the Coalition Against Summary Executions. “And
not only drug users but human rights defenders, activists, and anyone
they consider as enemies of the state.”

IBM had to have known about the Dutertes’ track record at the time,
said a U.S. official who recalled being briefed by IBM about its Davao
City project. “I can’t see how they wouldn’t have known about
it. They have local people working for them,” said the official, who
requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on U.S.
government matters.

Joshua Franco, head of technology and human rights at Amnesty
International, noted that Rodrigo Duterte’s record as mayor was so
well-documented that any company engaging with the Davao police at
that time would have had a responsibility to investigate and avoid
potential complicity in human rights violations before signing any
agreements.

“There is documentation of the killings, by persons believed to be
linked to the police, that went on in Davao City while Duterte was
mayor,” he said. “Human rights organizations have documented that,
during this period, as many as 1,000 people were killed, including
street children, people who used and sold drugs, as well as petty
criminals. Without implementing a rigorous human rights due diligence
process, companies supplying the local police forces suspected of
having been involved in the killings with policing equipment and
technology may have enabled or facilitated the commission of human
rights violations.”

Asked about the human rights implications of the surveillance program,
Philippine law enforcement officials familiar with the IBM system made
light of such concerns.

“If police do some human rights abuses, who cares?” said one
official, claiming that such tactics had resulted in significant crime
reductions.

Gaerlan, the regional police superintendent, joked about the
extrajudicial killing of alleged drug lord Melvin Odicta Sr
[http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2016/08/29/odicta-couple-shot-dead.html].,
who was shot, according to police, by two “unidentified
assailants.” Gaerlan’s agency, the Philippine National
Police, officially speculated
[http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2016/08/29/odicta-couple-shot-dead.html] that
he may have been killed by other drug dealers. But the commander waved
off that version of events. “He was shot right off the ship,” he
said, laughing. “He was trying to evade authorities by not coming
here on a plane. He never holds drugs. You can’t catch him, but he
was killed. Not by anyone in uniform! It was just some vigilantes, but
they weren’t in uniform!”

Legal protections for the accused, such as due process, may be good in
theory, argued Boquiren, the PSSCC officer, but they aren’t
practical because of a court system he characterized as inefficient
and corrupt. “Due process is good on the point of lawyers, but if we
are talking about the criminal justice system, it’s weak. Even
clear-cut cases of murder take years, witnesses die, so something is
wrong,” he said.

“If people don’t have discipline, they don’t obey,” he
continued. “But if there is fear, they will obey.”

Duterte’s Mass Surveillance Plans

In November, Jaldon said that IBM’s surveillance program was no
longer active in Davao. He said that authorities switched over to an
in-house software system in 2016. Still, he and Boquiren said that the
urban surveillance center model IBM helped build in Davao City has
served as an inspiration for the Duterte administration. “Within the
next few years, the president will have replicated our system
everywhere,” Boquiren said last January. “Every time he goes
somewhere, he keeps telling local leaders, go to Davao City and
replicate the PSSCC.”

Duterte’s plan is to expand and unify public safety and emergency
response centers at a regional and national level in the coming years,
Jaldon said. “The hard part before was the budget costs, but that
won’t be a problem anymore with the president prioritizing this.”

Jaldon and Boquiren said national authorities — including Duterte
himself — are interested in expanding surveillance centers across
the country and upgrading their video capabilities to include
real-time facial recognition, which could compare the faces of
suspects to facial images caught on CCTV.

In February 2018
[https://www.manilatimes.net/chinas-declared-purpose-change/381241/],
a local news report cited anonymous sources indicating that Duterte
was pursuing a partnership with Huawei, a Chinese telecom firm, to
provide facial recognition technology, a development Boquiren
confirmed at the time.

Then in December 2018, the Philippine legislature
[https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/12/13/1876639/dilg-chinese-firm-install-p20-billion-cctv-network] learned
that a different Chinese firm, the state-owned China International
Telecommunications and Construction Corp., had loaned the Philippines
Department of the Interior and Local Government 20 billion pesos to
install 12,000 surveillance cameras across Davao City and metro
Manila. The “Safe Philippines” infrastructure, according to a
report in the Philippine Star, will include a national command center
and a backup data center, equipped with facial and vehicle recognition
software. At a Senate hearing, Sen. Ralph Recto raised concerns about
China’s involvement in the project, and officials from the national
Department of Information and Communications Technology testified that
they had not been consulted about the deal.

Several other Chinese firms had originally been proposed by the
Chinese Embassy for the project, including Huawei. But, according to
a January 2019 Senate resolution
[http://senate.gov.ph/lisdata/2932525926!.pdf] introduced by
Recto_,_ Huawei was slated to become only a major subcontractor as
the “primary equipment supplier.”

According to Boquiren, Huawei promised that its facial recognition
product could capture someone “even with an image of the side of
their face” and “store up to a million faces.” In a November
2018 call, Boquiren reiterated that unspecified police authorities
were looking at Huawei technology, but declined to discuss any
additional details, citing a lack of technical expertise. Jaldon
cautioned that while the Chinese firm had “a good system,”
authorities were still in the process of assessing a variety of facial
recognition vendors as part of the implementation of the “safe city
project” across the country.

The Philippines’ potential collaboration with Chinese firms, which
resulted from an agreement reached during the visit of Chinese
President Xi Jinping last November
[https://www.rappler.com/nation/218831-dilg-china-telecom-affiliate-partnership-video-surveillance-system-philippines],
reflects Duterte’s ongoing pivot
[https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-11/duterte-s-pivot-to-china-shows-some-signs-of-economic-payoff] to
China and away from the United States. Huawei, in particular, is
alleged to have such close ties to the Chinese state that it has been
banned
[https://www.theverge.com/2018/5/2/17310870/pentagon-ban-huawei-zte-phones-retail-stores-military-bases] from
U.S. government contracts and from providing some security products
to Australia
[https://www.cnet.com/news/australia-to-ban-huawei-from-5g-rollout-amid-security-concerns/] for
fear of backdoor intrusions by Chinese intelligence actors.

The former consultant to the Philippine Army said his understanding
is that the Safe Philippines installation will be modeled after
Chinese facial recognition infrastructure, uniting CCTV installations
and intelligence databases from security agencies across the country
into one unified system. “The project aims to establish new CCTV
networks and cascade them with all existing CCTV installations,” he
said. “Patterned after the Chinese police state, the system is
intended to tap databases from a variety of agencies of the government
and integrate them with the data streams from the CCTV networks.”

In a more recent interview, the former consultant said that, given the
scrutiny Huawei has drawn, the Department of the Interior and Local
Government may opt for another technology equipment supplier, a claim
that Densing, the Department of the Interior official, echoed
[https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/31/19/dilg-safe-philippines-can-help-thwart-another-jolo-attack] in
the January television interview.

Maya Wang, senior researcher on China at Human Rights Watch, said the
potential adoption of a Chinese-style surveillance infrastructure,
facilitated by Chinese companies, is very concerning given the
“context of Duterte’s increasing abuses, drug war, and large-scale
extrajudicial violence.” But Wang cautioned that the costs and
expertise required for such systems are not easily replicable. The
Philippine government could potentially “replicate one or some of
the systems, but not all of the overlapping, multitiered mass
surveillance systems seen in China,” she said.

Anti-Duterte activists worry that this planned consolidation of
surveillance capabilities could further enable Duterte-aligned forces
to stamp out pockets of political resistance. An integrated national
system of real-time facial recognition technology, according to
Picardal, the former spokesperson for the Coalition Against Summary
Executions, would ensure the fulfillment of what he called Duterte’s
“plan to exercise full authoritarian/dictatorial rule and repress
dissent.” Picardal, who is currently in an undisclosed location,
said such a system would also threaten him personally, as he believes
that Duterte’s deaths squads want him dead. Since Duterte came to
power nationally, several other dissident priests
[https://www.rappler.com/nation/205165-catholics-outrage-filipino-priests-killings] in
the Philippines have been murdered. (Duterte has denied
[https://www.apnews.com/2bf72bc962df488aa7de8aae64b284e8] condoning
extrajudicial killings as president. A presidential spokesperson said
last year
[https://www.cbsnews.com/news/philippines-priest-amado-picardal-claims-rodrigo-duterte-death-squad/] that
Picardal should seek court protection if he feels threatened.)

“I have transferred to a more secure location,” he said. “But
with that technology, it would be more difficult for me to come out in
the open and that will restrict my freedom of movement. That
technology will be used not just to locate, arrest, and charge
dissidents in court, but, worse, to inform the death squads of their
whereabouts.” He warned that the technology will increase
extrajudicial killings, “instill fear on those who oppose his
rule,” and curtail citizens’ “right to free assembly and redress
of grievances. This type of technology will weaken democracy and will
advance authoritarian rule all over the country.”

Since taking power, the Duterte administration has attempted
[https://www.rappler.com/nation/193806-duterte-fake-news-outlet] to
shut down or mitigate
[https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Deals/Blasted-by-Duterte-Philippine-Daily-Inquirer-owners-opt-to-sell] critical
news coverage, including, in January, the online news site
Rappler_,_ and numerous political activists
[https://www.amnesty.org.au/philippines-political-human-rights-activists-killed-impunity/] have
been among those assassinated. Meanwhile, the president’s notorious
“drug war” has left thousands more dead. “It’s not just the
killing of thousands,” the former army security consultant warned.
“It results in a killing organization, the police, that is easy to
expand. The drug war is a mirror to the larger future.”

Gaerlan, the recently retired national police commander, scoffed at
such concerns. “The human rights activists, Rappler, all of them act
like this is a dictatorship, but if that is so, tell me how are they
protesting and not being suppressed?” he said. “Obedience to the
law, before what you think is right, above all else.”

_This article was reported in partnership with Type Investigations._

_George Joseph is a criminal justice reporter at The Appeal. His work
has appeared in outlets such as ProPublica, The Guardian, Foreign
Policy, and The Verge. Text him on the secure phone app Signal at
929-282-2471. _

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