Philippine police kill three more drug suspects

A view of a Filipino community in Cebu City, Philippines on May 19, 2016.
A view of a Filipino community in Cebu City, Philippines on May 19, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

MANILA (AFP) - Philippine police have killed three drug suspects in a shootout, officials said on Sunday (May 29), the latest such deaths after president-elect Rodrigo Duterte vowed to crack down on crime by any means necessary.

Police said they were fired on when they went to the home of a suspected drug dealer on the tiny central island of Banacon before dawn on Saturday. They returned fire and the suspect and three associates were injured.

The suspected trafficker Rowen Secretaria and two unidentified men were pronounced dead after being taken to hospital, while a fourth was treated for gunshot wounds, local police officer Roel Lagora told AFP.

"The armed men shot at the raiding team several times, prompting the latter to defend themselves and return fire," Mr Lagora told AFP by phone, reading an official account of the incident.

Police have killed 12 other drug suspects across the country in the past week, while unidentified gunmen murdered two other people linked by police to illegal drugs.

Mr Duterte has warned that security forces will kill tens of thousands of criminals and ignore human rights, part of a campaign pledge to eradicate the scourge of drugs that many voters rated as their top concern.

The incoming leader, who is also the sitting mayor of the southern city of Davao, has been accused of backing vigilante death squads that have murdered more than a thousand people in Davao, including more than 100 minors.

Civil rights groups have criticised Mr Duterte over the threats, describing his proposed methods as illegal and unconstitutional.

Police have denied they are implementing Mr Duterte's campaign promises even before he takes office on June 30, insisting earlier this month that the first eight suspects were killed in self-defence.

Banacon is about 20 km off the coast of Cebu, the country's second-largest city.

The recently elected mayor of Cebu, Tomas Osmena, told AFP earlier this month he would pay police 50,000 pesos (S$1,477) for each criminal they killed, and 5,000 pesos for wounding them.

"I'm just taking care of business," Mr Osmena told AFP on Sunday when asked about the raids and the criminal bounties.

While the raid took place in a separate municipality, Mr Osmena said on Facebook that Secretaria was "the biggest drug lord" in two Cebu city districts.

"This is just one of four operations being conducted this weekend. Will report the others tomorrow," Mr Osmena wrote.