Duterte crime war out of control: Philippine critics

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks inside a military airbase in Angeles City, east of Manila, Philippines on July 5, 2016.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks inside a military airbase in Angeles City, east of Manila, Philippines on July 5, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

MANILA (AFP) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on crime is spiralling out of control, a top human rights lawyer and opposition lawmakers said Friday (July 8) after police confirmed killing more than 100 people.

Duterte won the May 9 election by landslide largely on a pledge to kill tens of thousands of narcotics suspects and other criminals, and has urged the police and civilians to help in the killings.

"President Duterte's war on crime has spawned a nuclear explosion of violence that is spiralling out of control and creating a nation without judges, without law, and without reason," Free Legal Assistance Group chairman Jose Manuel Diokno said.

Diokno, also a prominent law professor, likened the killings to the actions of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, accused of killing thousands of dissidents during a 20-year rule that ended in 1986.

Police said Thursday that they had killed 103 drug suspects who resisted arrest, but insisted they had operated within the boundaries of the law.

"They put in danger the lives of our police officers who then had to defend themselves," police spokesman Dionaldo Carlos said.

About 10 criminal suspects had been killed by police or suspected vigilantes each day since Duterte took his oath of office, according to a running tally by the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper.

Forty-three were killed as part of police operations, while 29 others, five of them yet to be identified, were victims of "vigilante-style killings", it added.

Among the dead was a policeman found tied to a post Thursday with a cardboard sign hanging from his chest that accused him of being a "police drug pusher". A photo of the victim was published on the paper's front page on Friday.

Police in nearby Bulacan province said he had been under surveillance on suspicion of ties with drug gangs.

"That was the life he chose, so there's no one to blame for his fate," the provincial police chief, Senior Superintendent Romeo Caramat, told Manila television network ABS-CBN in an interview.

Duterte, who during the election campaign said 100,000 people would die in his war on crime, on Thursday threatened an alleged drug dealer with death if he returned to the Philippines.

"The moment he steps out of the plane, he will die," Duterte said on national television.

Duterte also named two jailed drug dealers who he said continued to distribute illegal drugs from inside their cells.

"My appeal to them is that, since they are beyond redemption, they can stop and commit suicide because I will not allow these idiots to run their show," he added.

House of Representatives member Teddy Baguilat said the president's rhetoric "breeds a culture of violence and culture of retribution".

Baguilat and Senator Leila de Lima, who served as justice minister in the previous government, both told AFP on Friday they had asked Congress to investigate the killings.

"The killings are on the rise, and there are just telltale signs of summary executions in a number of them," de Lima said.