- 30 Jan 2017 02:45
Police have reported killing more than 2,500 people they have accused of being drug suspects. (AFP/NOEL CELIS)
MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday (Jan 30) extended his deadly drug war until the last day of his term in 2022, but conceded the police force acting as his frontline troops was “corrupt to the core”.
Thousands of people have died in the crackdown that began when Duterte took office in the middle of last year, with rights groups warning police are carrying out extrajudicial killings not just to fight crime but to aid their own corrupt activities.
Duterte won the presidential elections largely on a law-and-order platform headlined by a vow to eliminate the illegal drug trade in three to six months.
Once in office Duterte extended the timeframe until March of this year, but on Monday he said there would be no end while he was in power.
“I will extend it to the last day of my term,” Duterte told reporters. “March no longer applies.”
In the Philippines, presidents are allowed to serve only a single term of six years.
Duterte has been unrepentant in the face of fierce criticism of the drug war from various Western governments, UN agencies and rights groups, saying he must take extreme measures to stop the Philippines from becoming a narco state.
However, a series of scandals involving the police using the drug war as a cover for extortion, including the abduction and murder of a South Korean businessmen, have fuelled fears that rogue cops are on the rampage.
Police chiefs had repeatedly insisted in recent weeks that those crimes were isolated cases, and that they did not signal a larger problem.
However, Duterte said on Monday he believed almost 40 per cent of all police officers around the country were involved in graft.
“You policemen are the most corrupt. You are corrupt to the core. It’s in your system,” Duterte told reporters as he railed against the officers who allegedly masterminded the murder of the South Korean businessman.
He said he wanted to “cleanse” the police force by doing a review of all the police officers that had previously been involved in extortion.
However, Duterte had previously insisted on many occasions he would not allow any police officer to go to jail for killing people in the name of his drug war.
He also said last year he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug addicts as part of his crime war.
Police have reported killing more than 2,500 people they have accused of being drug suspects, while nearly 4,000 others have died in unexplained circumstances in the crackdown, according to official figures.
Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa
Philippines: Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kline also said the numbers of fatalities in the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office on June 30, 2016, are “appalling but predictable” since he (Duterte) vowed to “forget the laws on human rights.”
Project Duterte: RT looks into Philippines’ war on drugs (DOCUMENTARY)
Human rights activists working in the Philippines told RT that they are seeing “an alarming increase” in the number of recorded deaths, with widespread allegations of extra judicial killings. The country’s capital Manila is frequently awash with bodies – killed by death squads or vigilantes, as well as other special groups who ruthlessly seeking to eradicate the drug threat. Many of the murder victims have distinctive signs such as “pusher” left on their dead bodies.
“Our brother’s name was Ericardo Medina. His body was found on Park Avenue in Pasay City. He had something tied to his back, his face was covered in masking tape, there was an ice pick in his neck,” Medalyn Medina says, her voice breaking.
“It’s still painful, especially when I see a photograph of him, dead, his face all covered in blood. It’s tough, especially at night. I can’t sleep…”
Her sister says they didn’t go to the police, since they (the police) “don’t believe in justice for the poor.”
“I’m angry because, not just my brother, but many were killed,” Ligaya adds, her trembling voice rising.
More than 26 million Filipinos are considered poor with 12 million of them living in extreme poverty official statistics released in spring stated. Many don’t even have money to have a funeral for their loved ones.
RT also spoke with those who call themselves ‘vigilantes’, part of the so called death squads.
“I’m stuck in the whole thing, tied hand and foot. And I like being this kind of man. I can’t live without it now,” an unidentified ‘vigilante’ said, casually adding that he had already killed eight people.
He alleges the death squads are being supported by police. “Most of them provide cover for us. When we murder someone, they stay on the side-lines as if nothing’s happening.”
RT also spoke with a woman, who is under witness protection program – as are most of those who speak against police violence or corruption.
“They took my husband and came looking for drugs, even searched my 2-year-old baby. <…> Everyone they arrest is tapped for money. Even the 4th police precinct chief knows they do it in Pasay, because he gets his share.”
“My husband told me that he and his father needed medical help after being beaten up. Later I heard that the prison guards said my father wouldn’t let them handcuff him, he resisted. He allegedly produced a gun, so they had to shoot him.”
In an ironic twist, those behind bars told RT that at times they feel safer in prison than outside even though prisons are overcrowded – for instance, the Quezon city jail houses over 3,200 inmates in a space built for just 800.
“I talked to those who happened to have knowledge of what’s going on outside. Killings in relation to drugs. So it’s better to stay here. Because of that fear. There are many people who were killed during the week following their release,” an inmate said.
The war on drugs started with the election of Rodrigo Duterte in the summer of 2016. Since then, there have been over 5,900 deaths linked to Duterte’s war, according to statistics released by the national police in December. Of those, 2,086 have been killed in police operations and 3,841 in extrajudicial killings. Over 40,000 have been arrested.
Despite the criticism, Duterte is undeterred, seemingly condoning the killings, and his emphatic message, “Even if it is true that they were really killed, or there was a mistake somewhere…those 3,000 compared with the lives of 4 million Filipinos that can be destroyed by drugs if left unbridled and without control?” the outspoken and controversial Duterte said in November.
Asked, how a mother who loses an innocent son in his drug war is supposed to feel, Duterte nonchalantly said, “The most that you can really tell the public is collateral damage, like during the bombings [of civilian sites] in the Middle East.”
WATCH RT’s DOCUMENTARY:
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