Manila vows less violent drug war amid ICC probe

MANILA • Philippine police said yesterday they have adopted special measures, including body cameras, to reduce violence in anti-narcotics operations as the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates allegations of thousands of extrajudicial killings in President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war.

Five days after the ICC launched a preliminary examination of the alleged murders, the authorities said the number of suspects shot dead by law enforcement personnel had risen to more than 4,000.

Critics allege that the fiery Mr Duterte, who has vowed to kill tens of thousands of criminals to rid Philippine society of drugs, is goading police to murder suspects through inflammatory statements.

National police spokesman John Bulalacao said: "We are confident that this time, police-intensive operations against illegal drugs will be carried out with greater efficiency and with less violent confrontations between law enforcers and offenders."

While the campaign is not expected to be entirely "bloodless", the government has adopted certain measures - including more training and body cameras - to minimise bloodshed, Mr Bulalacao told a news conference.

Mr Duterte suspended police participation in the crackdown twice last year due to controversial killings that led to a public backlash against his anti-narcotics campaign.

Mr Bulalacao said that police adopted the extra safeguards in December last year after Mr Duterte authorised the force to rejoin his drug war.

The ICC's initial inquiry is designed to help prosecutors determine if there is enough evidence of crimes that fall into its jurisdiction. It could lead to a full probe and eventually charges.

The mass-murder complaint filed at the ICC by a Filipino lawyer last year alleges that around 8,000 extrajudicial killings, while human rights groups estimate that the actual toll is now more than 12,000, some of them assassinated by suspected vigilantes.

Activists allege that police break down doors in slums and kill defenceless people, then plant guns and drugs on the bodies.

The authorities are also accused of hiring assassins.

Mr Duterte has said that he has not given any illegal orders to the police, and that it is his constitutional duty to protect citizens.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2018, with the headline 'Manila vows less violent drug war amid ICC probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe