Posts Tagged ‘corrupt police’

How China’s demand for a $30K fish bladder drives poaching, trafficking and wildlife extinction

May 18, 2017

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A boat full of totoaba and its crew took the illegal catch to shore while being photographed with a Sea Shepherd drone. (photo courtesy of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

An hourlong flight east of Hong Kong in the Chinese port city of Shantou, traders cater to affluent businessmen quietly looking to drop up to $30,000 dollars on a single fish bladder.

While these transactions are punishable by large fines and even time behind bars, a covert investigation by a nonprofit advocacy group has found that weak, perhaps corrupt, law enforcement allows fishermen, import-export companies and perhaps drug cartels to profit in an international supply chain that stretches from Asia back to Southern California and Mexico.

Chinese culture has believed for centuries that the organ — known locally as gold coin fish maw — has lifesaving properties. While science has yet to prove the health benefits, the dried bladder is often kept for emergencies — for use as part of a medicinal soup. It’s also gifted and displayed in homes as a status symbol.

“In Shantou, gold coin fish maw is usually treated as the priceless treasure of a shop, so they are not labeled a price and not on sale (openly),” a local trader in March told an undercover investigator with the Los Angeles-based Elephant Action League, a recently established organization that gathers intelligence on wildlife crimes.

This week, the nonprofit issued its report exposing the illegal fish-bladder trade in China and its consequences thousands of miles away. The league said it intends to expand its watchdog work on this issue in the coming months.

By the mid-20th century, Chinese demand for certain fish bladders had eviscerated stocks of the giant yellow croaker, which once thrived off China’s coast. If a person is lucky enough to catch one of these rare fish today, it can fetch as much as half a million dollars on the black market.

Enthusiasm for fish bladders went unnoticed for decades by many in the West. However, in recent years that has changed as desire for the illicit product has led to the near extinction of the vaquita porpoise, which lives in Baja California and is the most endangered marine mammal on the planet.

The totoaba, a 120-pound fish found in the Upper Gulf of Mexico, has a bladder that resembles that of the croaker’s — making it a prime target of poaching. It’s suspected that drug cartels pay local fishermen in the region to catch the fish and deliver the prized organ.

While the six-foot-long totoabas are then dumped back into the sea, their dried bladders are shipped to Asia. At retail pricing, each bladder can fetch from $6,700 to more than $30,000 depending on its weight and other characteristics.

A gold coin fish maw at a store in the Chinese port city of Shantou,

In the process, the nylon gillnets used to catch totoabas in the murky waters off of the fishing village of San Felipe in Baja California also ensnare and suffocate a number of other wildlife species, including whales, sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, rays — and those imperiled vaquitas.

Scientists with international conservation groups estimate that fewer than 30 vaquitas remain today, down from about 567 two decades ago. The totoaba is also considered by international treaty to be endangered. It’s unknown exactly how many are left.

The Elephant Action League’s undercover team, which includes retired law-enforcement officers from around the globe, visited more than two dozen shops in Shantou, China and the surrounding region in March. The area is believed to be a main trading hub for the bladders.

“They pretend to be buyers or traders,” said Andrea Crosta, executive director and co-founder of the league, which employs a handful of full-time staff members and a network of about a couple dozen contractors around the world. “They wear undercover cameras. We come back with audio and video that back up our words,” he said.

Many shop owners at first hesitated to speak with the league’s investigators, but eventually opened up and displayed their priciest fish maws. After the Chinese government began paying more attention to the illicit trade in recent years, many merchants responded by selling only to trusted customers and behind closed doors.

However, this level of caution wasn’t universal.

“Chinese laws on illegal wildlife trafficking are very harsh, but the problem is the implementation,” Crosta said. “It’s not enough to just have the laws. They have to be enforced.”

China’s government launched a campaign last fall to educate merchants on Chinese and Mexican laws banning totoaba fishing and bladder sales. Still, none of shop owners interviewed by the league could recall any seizures by law enforcement in their region.

On Nan’ao Island, a historical trading hub for fish maws just off the coast of Shantou, an investigator probed a dealer for information.

“If it’s illegal, why do you put them on display?” the investigator asked.

“Because (when) the government comes to check, they call and inform us earlier, and we will hide them when they come,” the merchant explained.

Several shop owners advised the investigators to purchase only the most expensive gold coin fish maw to use as an important business gift or to bribe a government official for an especially lucrative contract.

Investigators found a steady flow of totoaba bladders coming from Mexico into China, and many traders said that’s because they’re betting on a collapse of the species. The merchants frequently said people buy the gold coin fish maws as investments, speculating that demand will eventually outpace supply and dramatically drive up market values.

A primary smuggling route for totoaba bladders is believed to be from Mexico into the U.S. and then to Hong Kong and China, according to the new report. Thailand, which critics said also suffers from lax enforcement, is thought to be another key stopover for some shipments.

Shop owners in Shantou said most of the fish bladders were coming from a port on the U.S.-Mexico border, transported in shipping containers alongside legal products such as codfish bladders.

Mexican and U.S. officials have called the totoaba bladder “aquatic cocaine.” In fact, it’s often more expensive, with about two pounds of dried bladder routinely selling for as much as three and a half pounds of the powder drug.

Wildlife trafficking in general is big business, with an estimated annual value of $2 billion in the U.S. and up to $23 billion globally, according to a 2015 report from the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife in Washington, D.C. It is routinely ranked among the top illicit trades worldwide.

Moving illegal animal and plant products has drawn the attention of organized crime. In Baja California, drug cartels have been blamed for paying local fishermen to poach the totoaba bladders and then smuggling the contraband.

The value of totoaba bladders in Mexico is approximately $1,500 apiece, according to some law-enforcement agencies. The pricing surges to about $5,000 per bladder after the organ is smuggled into the U.S.

It’s thought that trafficking of totoaba bladders attracts a lot of opportunists because it’s lucrative and relatively low-risk. Even people on the front lines moving the product rarely face consequences in China, Mexico or the U.S., judging by the scant number of prosecutions in those countries.

“The number of cases have (recently) decreased,” said Michelle Zetwo of San Diego, a special agent with the law-enforcement division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “That either tells me that the demand is down in China or they’re beating us coming across the border somehow. Or they’re shipping it directly from Mexico to China.”

The most high-profile totoaba case involved the prosecution of a man, Song Shen Zhen, caught crossing the border from Calexico into the U.S. with several of the bladders. After he was let go, Border Patrol agents trailed him to a house where they discovered more than 200 other dried bladders, estimated to have a total street value in China of more than $3.6 million.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of California announced in 2014 that Shen Zhen was sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay the Mexican government $120,500 in restitution. Under the law, he could have received up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In another case, Los Angeles-based furniture dealer Kam Wing Chan received probation and was ordered to pay $55,000 in restitution for, among other things, possession of several dozen swim bladders.

Fishermen in Baja California who catch totoaba largely have escaped serious fines and incarceration.

“Most of the illegal fishermen are not motivated by a little fine. It’s so lucrative,” said Oona Layolle, who heads an advocacy operation in the Upper Gulf of Mexico for the U.S.-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. She oversees two boats that patrol the area, pull up banned gillnets and call in potential poaches to the Mexican navy.

“Every night we see 20 (illegal) fishermen around our ship on the radar, and I know they only arrested seven people in the last two years,” she added.

Mexico’s law-enforcement leaders are promising to step up efforts again the unsanctioned fishing and smuggling. Last month, its Congress voted to make such poaching a felony, and a boat with three or more people found catching totoaba can face charges of organized crime.

So far, these measures haven’t seemed to slow down fishermen in the upper Gulf, who sell totoaba bladders to middlemen in and around the town of San Felipe, said Sean Bogle, an investigative filmmaker with the nonprofit Wild Lens.

“A fisherman will go out and fish for totoaba, and they’re usually removing the bladder in the boat,” he said. “When they hit shore, there is an individual waiting for them, someone involved in an organized syndicate of sorts.”

Bogle recently directed the documentary “Souls of the Vermilion Sea,” which chronicles the impact of totoaba poaching on the dwindling vaquita population. In the process, he interviewed anglers and government officials close to the supply chain.

“From what I understand, going through the U.S. is the most common (smuggling) route,” Bogle said. “There’s definitely reports of it going out of San Diego, particularly on container ships.”

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/environment/sd-me-totoaba-smuggling-20170517-story.html

Philippines: Presidential Spokesman Calls 7,000 Extrajudicial Killings “Fake News” (It’s actually more like 9,000) — Further Erodes Credibility of Philippine Government, Philippine National Police (PNP)

April 21, 2017
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella called reports on more than 7,000 extralegal killings “false news.” PCOO/King Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson on Friday called reports of nearly 9,000 drug-related deaths “false news,” months after media organizations and international groups used the figure in their reports.

Ernesto Abella, the presidential spokesperson, said that the persistent reports of more 7,000 killed, which is now said to be nearly 9,000, was “false news” as the Philippine National Police (PNP) said that the figure was much lower.

“On the number of extrajudicial deaths, the persistent news reports of 7,000 killed, which is now being said to be close to 9,000, is false,” Abella said.

The president’s spokesperson said that based on official police data there were only 6,011 homicide cases being investigated. Of the figure, only 1,398 cases were found to be drug related, contrary to reports that 9,000 have already been killed in anti-illegal drugs operations, Abella said.

Abella, meanwhile, called on organizations which report on drug incidents to be fair and not to rush to judgment as he emphasized that people appreciated the changes being implemented by the administration and the way these were carried out.

“We ask to be understood not just from a single perspective, but from the point of view of Filipinos who desire change, stability and fairness,” Abella said.

The number of murders and homicide cases, however, have risen dramatically at the start of the Duterte administration last year despite government’s denial that they are related to the brutal war on drugs. Drug experts also acknowledge that stringent law enforcement policy against narcotics have historically resulted in unnecessary violence and deaths.

Abella’s comments came days after a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that public satisfaction with the government’s conduct of the war on drugs plunging by 11 points, from +77 in December 2016 to +66 in March 2017.

He also assuaged American concern on the increasing extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, saying that those who breached protocol would be made to account.

“We share the concern of US Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy, who has been quoted in the media saying ‘there are elements of the drug war that are operating outside the rule of law,’” the spokesperson said.

Abella said that the PNP has an Internal Affairs Service which would probe into cases of police violations.

“This body can suspend or dismiss PNP personnel based on violations incurred and can recommend the filing of criminal charges,” he said.

He said that security forces followed procedures in conducting their operations although force may be used to protect the safety of the police.

“Local authorities follow operation protocols and the proper enforcement of our laws requires the use of reasonable force merited by the attendant circumstances,” he said.

Not a single cop, however, has been accused by police investigators before a court of unjustifiably killing drug suspects in police operations. President Rodrigo Duterte himself said he will defend and pardon cops accused of wrongdoing in the field.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/04/21/1692511/abella-calls-7000-extrajudicial-killings-fake-news

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Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl — killed in President Duterte’s war on drugs — looks like it has been put out with the trash….. Presidential spokeman Abella said the war on drugs is for the next generation of Filipinos.
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) talks to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa. AFP photo

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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.”

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Philippines Policeman found tortured and strangled after some fellow police said he was involved in the illegal drug trade. Photo Credit Boy Cruz

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/07/08/1600763/cop-linked-drugs-tortured-killed

 (December 23, 2016)

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 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

“They are afraid the incident could cause President Duterte to declare martial law. I talked with some sultans and ulamas and elders here… and that’s what they have told me,” Ponyo said.

 (November 30, 2016)

 

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High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo, Jean-Marc Ferré

Summary executions of supposed drug dealers and other criminals have become a common occurence in recent weeks. The STAR/Joven Cagande, file

 (November 16, 2016)

 

 (August 10, 2016)

Davao City’s Ronald dela Rosa has been appointed to become the next chief of the Philippine National Police to lead President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s planned crackdown on illegal drugs. Facebook/Dela Rosa
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Crime scene investigators examine a vehicle used by two drug suspects killed during an alleged shootout with officers along NIA Road in Quezon City on June 21, 2016. JOVEN CAGANDE/file
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President Rodrigo Duterte's crusade against drug users and dealers is controversial

 

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry's Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry’s Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Health officials closed Henry's Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Health officials closed Henry’s Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Philippines: National Police killings ‘committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population’ — ‘Reign of terror’ — ‘Extermination’ — Insiders talking to evidence gatherers for the International Criminal Court

April 18, 2017
At least 39 people were killed in police operations during Holy Week as Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa proved true to his word that there would be no Lenten break in the war on drugs. AP/Bullit Marquez, file
  • Almost 9,000 people killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June
  • Two senior officials have claimed that police orchestrated many of those killings 
  • Police paid to kill drug suspects and – for 10,000 pesos ($200) a head – rapists, pickpockets, swindlers, gang members, alcoholics and other ‘troublemakers’

The Philippine police have given bonuses for killing drug suspects, planted evidence at crime scenes and carried out most of the murders they blamed on vigilantes, said two senior officers.

The officials, who are critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs,’ challenged the government’s explanations of the killings in interviews.

Almost 9,000 people, many small-time users and dealers, have been killed since Duterte took office on June 30. Police say about a third of the victims were shot by officers in self-defence during legitimate anti-drug operations.

Human rights monitors believe the remaining two thirds were killed by paid assassins working with police or by police disguised as vigilantes – a charge the police deny.

Philippine police have received cash payments for executing drug suspects, planted evidence at crime scenes and carried out most of the killings they have long blamed on vigilantes, claim officials critical of President Rodrigo Duterte's (pictured) 'war on drugs'

Philippine police have received cash payments for executing drug suspects, planted evidence at crime scenes and carried out most of the killings they have long blamed on vigilantes, claim officials critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s (pictured) ‘war on drugs’

The two senior officers, one a retired police intelligence officer and the other an active-duty commander, claimed the killings are in fact orchestrated by the police, including most of those carried out by vigilantes. They spoke on the condition of anonymity.

‘It is the Philippine National Police doing it,’ said the retired intelligence officer.

‘This killing machine must be buried six feet under the ground.’ He said he was angry about the impact of the killings on police discipline and wanted ‘to put Duterte on the defensive.’ Reuters was unable to independently verify if the police are behind vigilante killings.

The president’s office and the Philippine police did not respond to questions from Reuters.

The intelligence officer has authored an unpublished 26-page report on the conduct of the drug war in an effort to organize opposition to Duterte’s campaign.

The report, titled ‘The State-Sponsored Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines,’ provides granular detail on the campaign’s alleged methods, masterminds and perpetrators. The document has been shared with leaders of the Catholic Church in the Philippines and with the government-funded Commission on Human Rights.

Some of the report’s accusations against individuals could not be confirmed by Reuters; the news agency is therefore not publishing the full document.

Many of its findings, however, support and expand upon previous investigations of the drug war by Reuters and independent human rights monitors.

Human rights monitors believe paid assassins operating with police backing or by police disguised as vigilantes killed two thirds of the 9,000 people who have died since June 30 - a charge police deny

Human rights monitors believe paid assassins operating with police backing or by police disguised as vigilantes killed two thirds of the 9,000 people who have died since June 30 – a charge police deny

The report claims that police are paid to kill not just drug suspects, but also – for 10,000 pesos ($200) a head – rapists, pickpockets, swindlers, gang members, alcoholics and other ‘troublemakers.’

It also claims that civilian members of the so-called Davao Death Squad, which rights activists allege killed hundreds of people in Duterte’s hometown of Davao, were drafted to ‘augment and assist’ the police’s current nationwide anti-drug operation.

The report doesn’t provide documentary evidence for its accusations, which the intelligence officer said were based on accounts from 17 serving or former policemen, including the commander Reuters interviewed. The police commander said he agreed to talk because he was upset that authorities are targeting only petty drug suspects. ‘Why aren’t they killing the suppliers?’ he asked. ‘Only the poor are dying.’

The second half of the report is largely political in nature, asserting that Duterte has close ties to Communist forces in the Philippines. Many in the military and police are concerned by what they see as Duterte’s leftist sympathies. Since taking office, the president has released Communist rebels from prison to restart peace talks.

The report also calls the drug war a ‘social cleansing’ campaign similar to that launched in Mao Zedong’s China, with Duterte aiming to have drug addicts ‘physically eliminated.’

The Commission on Human Rights has reviewed the report and the accounts could open up new leads in ongoing investigations, said chairman Chito Gascon. Church officials confirmed receiving the report as well.

A report claims that police are paid to kill not just drug suspects, but also - for 10,000 pesos ($200) a head - rapists, pickpockets, swindlers, gang members, alcoholics and other 'troublemakers' (pictured, police interrogating local residents in operation against drugs

A report claims that police are paid to kill not just drug suspects, but also – for 10,000 pesos ($200) a head – rapists, pickpockets, swindlers, gang members, alcoholics and other ‘troublemakers’ (pictured, police interrogating local residents in operation against drugs

‘We should do all we can to follow any lead that could ultimately shed light on these killings with the view to ultimately holding the perpetrators to account,’ said Gascon.

The fresh claims come amid growing criticism of the drug war. In February, the country’s influential Catholic Church called it a ‘reign of terror.’ The campaign has also sparked street protests and lawsuits.

Duterte’s police chief, Ronald Dela Rosa, halted police operations for most of February after it emerged that an anti-drug unit had kidnapped and murdered a South Korean businessman last year. The killings continued but at a slower pace. On March 6, Dela Rosa announced that the police were resuming their drug operations.

In March, a former policeman, Arturo Lascanas, testified in the Philippine Senate about his role in vigilante-style killings in the southern city of Davao, where Duterte was once mayor. Lascanas was the second Senate witness to link Duterte to the Davao Death Squad. Duterte denies ordering any killings, either as president or mayor.

In a subsequent interview, Lascanas told Reuters that for over a decade he was paid for carrying out the liquidation of drug suspects and criminals. In the early 1990s, he said, he was paid 3,000 to 5,000 pesos ($60-$100) for each of the ‘jobs’ he performed.

By the early 2000s he was earning tens of thousands of pesos for each operation, he said. Lascanas said he had no documentary proof of the payments. He has since left the country.

In the past nine months, police acknowledge having shot dead more than 2,600 suspects during their operations. They say such shootings occur after suspects open fire on undercover officers trying to catch them dealing drugs.

It also claims that civilian members of the so-called Davao Death Squad, which rights activists allege killed hundreds of people in Duterte's hometown of Davao, were drafted to 'augment and assist' the police's current nationwide anti-drug operation. Pictured, Duterte with Trade Secretary Liam Fox)

It also claims that civilian members of the so-called Davao Death Squad, which rights activists allege killed hundreds of people in Duterte’s hometown of Davao, were drafted to ‘augment and assist’ the police’s current nationwide anti-drug operation. Pictured, Duterte with UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox

But these so-called ‘buy-busts’ are actually well-planned executions, said the commander interviewed by Reuters. The commander said targets are chosen from lists of suspects drawn up by police and local officials, who later coordinate to unplug security cameras in the neighbourhood where a killing is planned. According to the report, street lamps are also switched off.

‘There is no such thing as a legitimate buy-bust,’ the commander said. ‘The dealers know the cops and won’t sell to them.’

Instead, he said, a team of police operatives will execute the target, who is almost always unarmed, then plant guns and drugs at the crime scene to justify the use of deadly force.

‘We have to plant evidence for the legality of the operation,’ the commander said. ‘We are ordered to do these operations, so we have to protect ourselves.’

The commander said officers put the gun in the dead suspect’s hand and pull the trigger with the victim’s finger so forensic testing will show that the suspect fired a gun.

Late last year, he said, police crime-scene investigators told their fellow officers to place the guns at a slight distance from the suspects, rather than in their hands, to make things look more realistic.

Most drug suspects in his precinct are shot by rookie cops who are either eager for the experience or nominated by their superiors, the commander said. The superiors refer to this as a ‘baptism by fire.’

Each member of the team is quickly paid according to two factors, said the commander: his role in the killing and the target’s value.

According to the report, the cash ‘reward scales’ for drug killings range from 20,000 pesos ($400) for a ‘street level pusher and user,’ to 50,000 pesos for a member of a neighborhood council, one million pesos for ‘distributors, retailers and wholesalers,’ and five million for ‘drug lords.’

Police officers kill for money, said the commander, but also out of fear: Even the police are afraid of being included on a ‘watch list’ of drug suspects drawn up by police and local officials.

Officials have been killed for not cooperating, he added. He said he was aware of two cases but did not provide details on exactly what happened.

Most drug suspects in his precinct are shot by rookie cops who are either eager for the experience or nominated by their superiors, the commander said. Pictured, armed Filipino policemen stand guard next to the wall of a prison facility

Most drug suspects in his precinct are shot by rookie cops who are either eager for the experience or nominated by their superiors, the commander said. Pictured, armed Filipino policemen stand guard next to the wall of a prison facility

Reuters reported last year that the watch lists were effectively hit lists, with many of those named ending up dead. Another Reuters investigation showed that police officers were killing 97 percent of the suspects they confront in violent buy-bust operations, the strongest evidence yet that the police were summarily executing suspects.

Officers also cooperate because they know the police force’s flawed disciplinary system, which fails to adequately investigate even a fraction of the killings, means there is little chance they will get caught, said the intelligence officer.

One sign of the drug war’s success, says the government, is that more than a million users and pushers have voluntarily registered with the police, a process known as ‘surrendering.’

But the commander said police are given a quota of ‘surrenderers,’ and fill it by using city ordinances to arrest men who are drunk or shirtless – a misdemeanor known as ‘half-naked’ – then forcing them to register as drug suspects.

Reuters learned of the intelligence officer’s 26-page report from him and interviewed two Catholic priests in Manila who said they had encouraged him to compile it. One of the priests said he edited the report; the other said he helped distribute it among a small group of clerics and human rights activists. Both are helping organize opposition to Duterte’s drug campaign.

The Church’s initial reluctance to criticize Duterte’s drug war was prompted by a desire to ‘give him a chance’ when he took office, said one of the priests. But the killings, along with the president’s overtures to Communists, made many in the Church feel their values were under attack, he said.

The intelligence officer said he hoped the report would be used as evidence at the International Criminal Court. In October, the Hague-based tribunal said it could prosecute suspects if the killings were ‘committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4421430/Police-kill-rewards-staged-crime-scenes-Dutertes-drug-war.html#ixzz4ecS4W7LE
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) talks to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa. AFP photo

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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.”

Image may contain: text

No automatic alt text available.

Philippines Policeman found tortured and strangled after some fellow police said he was involved in the illegal drug trade. Photo Credit Boy Cruz

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/07/08/1600763/cop-linked-drugs-tortured-killed

 (December 23, 2016)

Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl looks like it has been put out with the trash…..
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 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

“They are afraid the incident could cause President Duterte to declare martial law. I talked with some sultans and ulamas and elders here… and that’s what they have told me,” Ponyo said.

 (November 30, 2016)

 

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and beard

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo, Jean-Marc Ferré

Summary executions of supposed drug dealers and other criminals have become a common occurence in recent weeks. The STAR/Joven Cagande, file

 (November 16, 2016)

 

 (August 10, 2016)

Davao City’s Ronald dela Rosa has been appointed to become the next chief of the Philippine National Police to lead President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s planned crackdown on illegal drugs. Facebook/Dela Rosa
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Crime scene investigators examine a vehicle used by two drug suspects killed during an alleged shootout with officers along NIA Road in Quezon City on June 21, 2016. JOVEN CAGANDE/file
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President Rodrigo Duterte's crusade against drug users and dealers is controversial

 

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry's Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry’s Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Health officials closed Henry's Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Health officials closed Henry’s Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Vietnam: 2,599 Killed, 6,405 Injured in Traffic January Through March 2013

April 3, 2013

Experts blame drunk or drug-addicted drivers, outdated roads, and bureaucratic failures for traffic accidents that have killed an average of 29 people per day in Vietnam so far this year

The two buses involved in a head-on collision on National Highway 1A in Khanh Hoa Province on March 8. Traffic accidents killed 2,599 people and injured 6,405 others nationwide during the first quarter of this year.

More than two weeks after two buses collided in Khanh Hoa, killing 12 people and injuring 60 others, the central province’s mayor took responsibility for the spike in traffic accidents under his watch.

“Khanh Hoa is the province with the top position in three categories: number of accidents, fatalities and injuries during the first quarter,” Nguyen Chien Thang, chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, said at a meeting this week.

“The number of serious accidents is also high. I accept any disciplinary measures [which might be handed down] by the central government,” Thang said.

Thang made the statement at the conference held on March 25 to carry out the Party’s instructions to “intensify the managerial role of the Party in ensuring traffic safety and order.”

In Khanh Hoa’s most recent traffic tragedy, just before 1 a.m. on March 8, both drivers and ten passengers were killed when two commercial buses traveling on National Highway 1A crashed head-on.

Police said nine people died on the spot, including the two drivers. They are still investigating what caused the accident.

In Vietnam, it is rare for a provincial mayor like Thang to take responsibility for traffic accidents, highlighting a worsening problem with an urgent demand for effective solutions.

At the March 25 conference, Le Hong Anh, the Party’s de facto number two, said despite the many policies that have been proposed to solve problem of traffic accidents, they have not been thoroughly carried out and therefore have yet to produce results.

Traffic accidents in Vietnam increased once again in the first quarter of 2013, after reducing in 2012.

During the first three months of the year, Vietnam recorded 6,528 traffic accidents, with 2,599 casualties – equivalent to 29 deaths per day – while 6,405 others were injured. Last year, there were 36,400 traffic accidents, killing 9,848 people and injuring 38,064 others.

But the World Health Organizaion has sought to allay concerns that traffic accidents are on the rise in Vietnam.

“When looking at road safety data it is important to only compare like with like,” the UN agency said in a statement emailed to Vietweek.

Compared to the first quarter of 2012, the increase at the end of the first quarter of this year is only 0.7 percent, the statement said.

“Comparing Q4 2012 results with Q1 2013 figures does not necessarily reflect a major increase in road trauma or cause for alarm that strategies are not working,” it said.

 

“Month-to-month fluctuations in road traffic data is considered normal and in this case it is particularly relevant to note that the Q1 2013 data includes the Tet lunar new year holiday, which has always been a time of peak travel for large numbers of Vietnamese people placing many, particularly vulnerable road users, at much greater exposure to road trauma.”

Drugs and alcohol

Cao Duc Khiem, deputy chief of Dak Lak Province Party Unit, said many residents had complained to him about north-south bus drivers they alleged were drug addicts.

In May 2012, Chu Ngoc Quang was convicted of driving under the influence of illegal drugs when his 24-seat bus crashed into a moving motorbike and bicyclist, as well as four parked cars in Thai Nguyen Province, seriously injuring two people. A Thai Nguyen court sentenced Quang to six months in jail.

Also last May, a bus heading to HCMC plunged into the Serepok River, killing 34 and injuring 20 others. Although there was no evidence directly linking bus’s driver, Pham Ngoc Lam, who was among the dead, to drugs, Dak Lak investigators pointed out that Lam had previously served seven years in jail for drug smuggling.

Between November 2012 and January 2013, Dak Lak traffic police drug-tested 196 of the province’s bus drivers. Eight of them tested positive for illegal drugs. All received fines, while the four found to have driven under the influence had their driver’s licenses revoked.

Last September, the HCMC Goods Transport Association launched a pilot project which publicized the names of bus drivers who had been dismissed for serious violations.

According to the association, many drivers had taken part in robberies in order to feed their drug or gambling habits.

The Viet Duc Hospital in Hanoi, which admits an average of 20,000 patients involved in traffic accidents each year, has said that about half of the victims were found to have consumed alcohol.

A survey of more than 18,000 people hospitalized due to traffic accidents between 2009 and 2010 found that 36 percent of motorcycle drivers and 66.8 percent of car and other vehicle drivers had blood alcohol contents that exceeded the legal limit.

According to the Ministry of Transport, drunk-driving accounts for 15-17 percent of all traffic fatalities in Vietnam.

Outdated roadways

Vietnam has more than 37 million registered motorbikes and 1.6 million cars and the ever-increasing number of vehicles has dramatically outpaced the development of road infrastructure, according to the National Committee for Traffic Safety.

While the number of vehicles increases by an average of 15 percent per year, the rate of building of new roads and bridges and the widening of existing ones, remains under one percent, the agency said.

Thang, the Khanh Hoa mayor, said he has proposed widening the stretch of National Highway 1A that goes through Khanh Hoa Province, which has gone 40 years without an upgrade.

“The highway has only two lanes. So, if drivers lose control or drive in wrong lane, it can easily lead to head-on collisions,” he said.

He said the central government had yet to approve plans to build a roundabout highway to replace the current one that runs through downtown Nha Trang, despite the province proposing it several times in recent years.

Fake licenses, faulty parts

Experts also pointed out that the periodical inspections of used cars have been ineffective, blaming it for the increase in traffic accidents.

Khiem, the Dak Lak leader, said many unscrupulous drivers have equipped their cars with new parts they merely borrowed in order to pass the compulsory inspection.

In late 2011, the Traffic Police Department and the Vietnam Registry conducted a quality inspection of vehicles traveling on the HCMC – Trung Luong Expressway in the Mekong Delta which revealed that many trucks and buses fells short of safety requirements, but had nevertheless managed to obtain inspection stamps. Several drivers admitted that they had borrowed new equipment to pass the inspection.

Furthermore, the prevalence of phony driver’s licenses is also problematic. But many drivers said they were unafraid of being punished because they could bribe the traffic police.

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Vietnam Communist Party launches anticorruption committee

February 21, 2013

An anti-corruption committee recently founded under the Vietnamese Communist Party will not succumb to “temptation” or “fear,” Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong has pledged at the agency’s launch.

Headed by Trong, the Central Steering Committee on Corruption Prevention has 16 members, including seven officials from the Politburo – the Party’s decision-making body.

Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong has been appointed to head the Party’s Steering Committee on Corruption Prevention

Nguyen Ba Thanh, the populist leader from Da Nang was appointed as the committee’s de facto number two.

In yet another move to beef up the anti-graft drive, the Party has also since early this month revived its Interior Commission which was merged with the Party Office in 2007, and appointed Thanh its chief.

 

Speaking at the launching ceremony of the anti-corruption committee last week, Trong said the Politburo established the committee due to the need to fight and prevent corruption.

He said although the Party and the government have gotten “tough,” there remain “many things to do.”

Moreover, it is important to be much “tougher” and more “patient” when undertaking the anti-corruption mission, because it is “very difficult” and “complex” due to the involvement of people in authority, according to the Party chief.

Trong also asked each member of the committee to set a good moral example by “not being tempted by any benefits” and “not fearing any force.”

“We have to pledge together that each member of the committee will be a good example of uprightness, honesty, justice, and objectiveness, or the people will not trust us.”

Previously, a committee with the same name operated under the government and was headed by the prime minister. But it was dissolved by the National Assembly, Vietnam’s legislature, at a session last November.