Widespread support despite fears over Duterte's crime blitz

A drug enforcement agent destroying seized chemicals and laboratory equipment for making methamphetamine. The police have killed more than 2,100 suspects since Mr Duterte took office.
A drug enforcement agent destroying seized chemicals and laboratory equipment for making methamphetamine. The police have killed more than 2,100 suspects since Mr Duterte took office.PHOTO: REUTERS

Poll of Filipinos shows 4 in 5 fear 'extrajudicial killings', but say it is 'very important' to curb crime

Four in five Filipinos fear that they, or someone they know, may die at the hands of police or vigilantes hunting for drug suspects. Yet, there is still widespread support for President Rodrigo Duterte's violent war on crime.

A survey by polling firm Social Weather Stations released yesterday found that 78 per cent worry that a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or even they themselves, may fall victim to what is known here as an "extrajudicial killing" or EJK. Just as many say it is "very important" that suspects are taken in alive.

Yet public satisfaction with Mr Duterte's war on drugs remained "excellent", with 85 per cent supporting it despite their apprehension, as they believe it has led to fewer crimes.

The poll of 1,500 people was conducted from Dec 3 to 6 and released by the newspaper BusinessWorld, which commissioned it.

Reacting to the survey, Communications Minister Martin Andanar reiterated that the campaign against criminals is "not aimed at poor, innocent, hapless individuals... Extrajudicial killings are not state-sponsored… Murder is murder".

FEAR NOT

People have nothing to fear if they are law-abiding citizens.

DIRECTOR OSCAR ALBAYALDE, police chief in metropolitan Manila.

The police have killed more than 2,100 suspects since Mr Duterte, 72, who won on a promise to eradicate crime and corruption, took office on June 30, the latest data showed.

Another 4,000 were believed to have been killed by vigilantes or in purges within criminal gangs. About 41,000 suspected drug users and dealers have been arrested.

Director Oscar Albayalde, police chief in metropolitan Manila, said "there is nothing to fear about being a victim of EJK or legit police operation".

"People have nothing to fear if they are law-abiding citizens," he said.

Last week, Mr Duterte repeated a boast he first made last year and during the campaign early this year that he had killed three men in 1988.

"I said I killed about three of them. I don't really know how many bullets from my gun went inside their bodies, but it happened," he told reporters.

But just as before, he insisted it was not a random killing or a summary execution.

He said he killed the three men during an operation to rescue a hostage. He also recounted how he used an M16 assault rifle during a firefight with the kidnappers.

Mr Duterte has spoken about killing people in another incident, though official reports do not support his account.

When he was campaigning for president early this year, he said he killed inmates who had taken hostages, including Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill, during a prison riot in his home city of Davao in 1989.

Ms Hamill was later raped and killed by the inmates.

Mr Duterte said he was so angry he grabbed his Uzi submachine gun and stormed into the prison.

"I emptied one magazine clip. There was a firefight, and then every one of them was dead," he said.

But official reports about the incident showed the military led the assault. Mr Duterte's role was just to lead the police in securing the area around the prison.

In earlier comments, Mr Duterte said when he was mayor, he patrolled Davao's streets on a motorcycle and killed criminal suspects to set an example to police officers.

His aides had tried to soften these remarks, saying that Mr Duterte tended to exaggerate.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2016, with the headline 'Widespread support despite fears over Duterte's crime blitz'. Print Edition | Subscribe