MANILA, Philippines – At least 96 drug pushers and users were killed in the last three days in the ongoing war on drugs waged by the Duterte administration.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said yesterday that 1,011 drug pushers and users were killed from July 1 to Sept. 4, or 96 more deaths than the Sept. 1 death toll of 915.
PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Dionardo Carlos said there are also 1,391 deaths considered as “death under inquiry” (DUI) or those cases when the bodies were found with cardboards with the note “pusher ako, huwag tularan” (I am a pusher, do not emulate me).
Carlos said territorial police units investigate DUI cases, while Internal Affairs Service (IAS) investigates deaths during police raids.
“(Cases of) DUI are separate from those killed during police operations under the Project Double Barrel,” he added.
Project Double Barrel targets street-level drug pushers and high-value targets simultaneously to meet President Duterte’s target to end the illegal drug trade in the country in first three to six months of his term.
A total of 14,798 were arrested in the operations, while 685,740 surrendered after PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa ordered an intensified implementation of Project Double Barrel.
Carlos said police considered solved 176 cases with the arrest of the alleged perpetrators of the crime. Police also filed 281 cases.
Dela Rosa earlier attributed the deaths of suspected drug pushers to illegal drug syndicates trying to purge their own ranks, including the case of businessman Melvin Odicta and his wife Meriam, who were assassinated at the Caticlan Jetty Port in Malay, Aklan last Aug. 29.
Dela Rosa also said in some of the cases investigation showed that some deaths were due to turf wars or double-crosses in drug transactions.
“You will be surprised, this is not the handiwork of vigilantes. These alleged vigilante killings, it turned out, are syndicated killings. Groups in illegal drugs,” Dela Rosa said in an earlier interview.
Meanwhile, a group of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) yesterday expressed support for the Duterte government’s all-out war against drugs.
John Leonard Monterona, United Overseas Filipinos Worldwide convenor, said OFWs are willing to come up with programs in support of the government anti-drug campaign.
Monterona also lauded the government for coming out with advertisements depicting clear messages that illegal drugs are society’s menace and people must unite against it.
Last Friday, the Presidential Communications Office released two anti-drug ads depicting a drug-addict father and an OFW mother who has a drug-addict son.
CBCP: Murder not a solution to crime
But the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) criticized anew the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs, saying crime can be fought without killing the offenders.
In a pastoral message read in all churches in his archdiocese yesterday in place of the Sunday homily of priests, CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said death ends all possibilities to change.
“Who are we to judge that this offender is hopeless?” Villegas said.
“We do not hold the future in our hands. There is no certainty that someone is beyond correction. The goal of justice is not revenge. The goal of justice is restoration of harmony,” he added.
Villegas also noted that in the pursuit of criminals, innocent lives have become victims of mistaken identities.
“We know it. Nobody is perfect. Even those who work for peace and order can be mistaken. Our hearts grieve for the innocent murdered ones. Guns do not make mistakes. Trigger-happy vigilantes do,” he said.
The prelate also urged the faithful to pray for those killed in Duterte’s war on drugs whether they were innocent or guilty, noting that the victims’ blood cries not for vengeance but pleads for an end to violence.
Villegas also urged the people to pray for those who kill because with the best of intentions or not, they still violated the Fifth Commandment.
“If you agree with us that killing suspected criminals is a crime and a sin itself, why do you just stay seated there in comfort keeping quiet?” he added. “The next life to be snuffed could be yours. Wake up my people! Wake up!”
‘No need to amend wiretap law’
Meanwhile, Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque said there is no need to amend the anti-wiretapping law for the government’s war on drugs because the Supreme Court has allowed agents to spy on the phone conversations of drug lords.
The former University of the Philippines law professor opposed Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency director-general Isidro Lapena’s proposal for Congress to amend the anti-wiretapping law.
“The law allows you (drug enforcement agents) to do so (spy or eavesdrop) for as long as you can prove probable cause. We don’t have to amend the law. There is already a jurisprudence on this. It’s Ganaan vs. Intermediate Appellate Court,” Roque said.
He explained that drug enforcement agents just have to “convince the judge” that there is really is a crime and that these suspects are really involved in drug trafficking so the judge can issue a search warrant. – Cecille Suerte Felipe, Delon Porcalla, Mayen Jaymalin, Eva Visperas
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