25 more killed in bloodiest week of Duterte's drug war

A cop offering water to a man as he comforts him after his brother was killed in a spate of drug-related violence in Manila. About 3,200 alleged drug suspects have been killed in purported gunbattles with police.
A cop offering water to a man as he comforts him after his brother was killed in a spate of drug-related violence in Manila. About 3,200 alleged drug suspects have been killed in purported gunbattles with police.PHOTO: REUTERS

85 killed so far; spike in deaths comes after President promises perks for law enforcers

At least 25 more drug suspects were killed overnight from late Thursday to early yesterday across metropolitan Manila, bringing the total number killed so far to 85 in the bloodiest week since President Rodrigo Duterte kicked off his anti-narcotics war last year.

The spike in deaths came as Mr Duterte cheered on lawmen involved in anti-drug operations with promises of immunity, promotion, commendation, a reward of 2 million pesos (S$53,000) and a holiday to Hong Kong.

Human rights activists and opposition politicians condemned what they saw as a disturbing escalation in extrajudicial killings, but the nation's police chief said the drug raids will continue.

Director-General Ronald de la Rosa said the spike in killings was "normal… because the operations are large-scale".

Police had yet to release an official tally yesterday, but online news site Interaksyon reported that 18 were killed in a cluster of four cities known as the Camanava area, north of the capital Manila. Seven more were killed in Manila and Quezon City, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

These deaths added to 60 killed from Monday in Manila and nearby Bulacan province in a renewed crackdown - dubbed by police as "one-time, big-time" operations - that Mr Duterte had praised.

On Thursday, Mr Duterte reassured law enforcers they would not go to jail.

  • FACTS AND FIGURES

  • June 30, 2016 President Rodrigo Duterte takes office and immediately sets in motion a crackdown on crime. During his campaign, he promised to end the drug menace in three to six months, and send 100,000 drug users to the bottom of Manila Bay.

    4 million The number of addicts that Mr Duterte says are in the Philippines.

    3,200 The estimated number of drug suspects police say were killed in drug raids. More than 2,000 others were killed by vigilantes. Human rights activists place the total at closer to 10,000.

    3 The number of "narco-politicians" on a list compiled by Mr Duterte who have been killed so far.

    Jan 30, 2017 Police suspend anti-drug operations to "cleanse" their ranks following the killing of South Korean Jee Ick Joo by anti-narcotics agents involved in extortion and kidnapping.

    March 7 Police resume drug raids. Four suspects are killed just hours later.

    Aug 17 After promising to end the drug menace in three months when he was campaigning for president, Mr Duterte concedes the problem will persist till the end of his term in 2022.

"If the police and the military get into trouble in connection with the performance of duty, you can expect, I really won't agree for you to be jailed," he said.

He added that the deadly crackdown would continue, and threatened to have human rights officials who obstruct it shot.

Police records show that about 3,200 alleged drug suspects have been killed in purported gunbattles with police. More than 2,000 others have died in drug-related killings.

These latest killings have sparked outrage, even among Mr Duterte's allies in Congress, as one of the victims was a 17-year-old boy.

Kian Loyd de los Santos was shot dead on Wednesday by policemen who insisted he shot at them.

But footage from a security camera, which was confirmed by eyewitnesses, showed him being dragged along a street. He was beaten, then forced to take a gun and told to run.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former police chief, sought an investigation into the boy's death.

Vice-President Leni Robredo, who leads the opposition party, condemned the killings yesterday.

She said: "We have been disgraced by this culture of impunity a long time ago… It should not happen."

Mr Chito Gascon, head of the human rights commission, said Mr Duterte's threats against those pushing to investigate the killings "exacerbates the climate of impunity that has characterised this administration".

Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Nationalist Alliance) said the killings will not solve the drug problem.

It added: "Unless he addresses the roots of the proliferation of illegal drugs, especially in depressed communities, he may just be accumulating statistics without actually solving anything."

Defending the crackdown yesterday, the President's spokesman Ernesto Abella said: "This is not a reckless exercise in bloodletting. (The goal) is to degrade community-based retail networks that will fuel the drug trade whoever is on top. This is a very focused effort."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2017, with the headline '25 more killed in bloodiest week of Duterte's drug war'. Print Edition | Subscribe