Posts Tagged ‘Duterte’

Philippines is Worst in Global Impunity Index (Weak capacity to prosecute crimes and bring perpetrators to justice)

September 23, 2017


Violence related to organized crime and terrorist activities by groups linked to the Islamic State placed the Philippines in the worst spot in the Global Impunity Index or GII drawn up by the Mexico-based University of the Americas Puebla or UDLAP and its Center of Studies on Impunity and Justice.

This GII is different from an index of the same name that focuses on violent attacks on journalists. The UDLAP study also covers only 69 out of the 124 United Nations members because information on security and justice was insufficient in the other states. But both studies ranked the Philippines among the worst because of the weak capacity to prosecute crimes and bring perpetrators to justice.

The UDLAP index stresses that impunity can lead to socioeconomic and legal inequality, rule-of-law problems and more human rights violations. It can aggravate corruption and violence, retard economic development and the ability to attract foreign investment and tourism.

The UDLAP index covers structural, functional and human rights dimensions of impunity. The human rights dimension is based on cases of torture, “homicides perpetrated by public officials, political imprisonment, extrajudicial killings, massive homicides, and disappearances.”

Ranked behind the Philippines were India, Cameroon, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua and the Russian Federation. Surely there are countries where impunity is just as bad or worse among the 124 UN member states that were excluded from the study. But regardless of the Philippines’ ranking if all UN states were included, no one will dispute the observation that the country suffers from institutional weaknesses in every aspect of the criminal justice system, from law enforcement to prosecution and corrections. The country received the worst rating in terms of the delivery of justice.

Frustration with the justice system has led to public tolerance of brutal methods of fighting criminality including the drug menace. This public support has emboldened the police, leading to abuses and impunity. Unless the nation moves decisively to boost the state’s capacity to deliver justice, law enforcement short cuts will continue to enjoy a measure of public support, and impunity will become worse.



Philippines: Anti-government rally a milestone for the Duterte administration — Denounced human rights abuses by state forces

September 22, 2017

For the first time since the start of the administration, an anti-government rally drew a respectable crowd. From various points in Metro Manila and nearby areas, the protesters marched to Rizal Park in Manila, where they gathered late yesterday afternoon to denounce human rights abuses by state forces and promised to prevent a return of dictatorial rule under martial law.

The protests were held as Mindanao remained under martial law and dictator Ferdinand Marcos rested in peace at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The Armed Forces of the Philippines, however, can validly claim that it is a different military, and it may be counted on to uphold democracy. Public perceptions of the AFP’s implementation of martial law in Mindanao, and particularly in besieged Marawi City, have been generally positive.

Fears of a Marcos-style martial law, however, and criticisms of human rights abuses under the current administration are directed at the Philippine National Police. Malacañang has been trying to dispel criticism that the PNP abuses are sanctioned or made possible by President Duterte himself.

There is also public disappointment over the government’s treatment of the Marcoses. The President’s repeated statements about hating corruption lose traction when he is perceived to be playing footsie with the Marcos clan.

In recent days, the President and his PNP officials have been issuing more nuanced directives in the conduct of the war on drugs, with emphasis on respect for civil liberties. His allies in the House of Representatives also made an about-face in the 2018 funding for the Commission on Human Rights.

President Duterte will likely continue to enjoy high approval ratings in the next survey. But yesterday’s protest actions indicate that the seeds of discontent are germinating, and a government ignores them at its own peril.

UN General Assembly: Philippines rejects nations’ positions on drug war deaths — Nations urge changes to President Duterte’s bloody methods

September 22, 2017
Seat of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. UN Brief photo

‘Deaths in drug war are not EJKs’

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines rejected United Nations member-states’ positions against extrajudicial killings despite thousands of questionable deaths over the past year.

At the 36th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday (Manila time), Ambassador Evan Garcia relayed the Duterte-led government’s denial of the existence of extrajudicial killings in connection with the brutal campaign against illegal drugs.

The recommendations were made by member-states in May this year at the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva where then Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, now Foreign Affairs secretary, faced the international body in defense of Duterte’s anti-narcotics campaign.

READ: Where nations stand on EJKs, death penalty in Philippines

Garcia, at the session on Friday, explained that the non-acceptance of the recommendations—99 of which were marked in the Philippines’ report as merely “noted” while 55 were outrightly “rejected”—was anchored on “national circumstances.”

“The State (Philippines) had sufficiently explained that deaths, which occurred in the course of the implementation of the [anti-illegal drug campaign], are not EJK,” the report read.

“These are deaths arising from legitimate law enforcement operations or deaths that require further investigation following the established rules of engagement by the country’s law enforcers,” it continued.

The Philippines’ reiteration of its position affirmed its previous statements putting forward what was seen as a limited definition of extrajudicial killings and fell short of recognizing the universal characteristic of human rights before the same international forum.

The Philippines’ response was a letdown to some member-states, including the country’s longstanding ally the United States and partner the United Kingdom, whose representatives expressed disapproval.

READ: Fast facts on the UN review of Philippine human rights

The Philippines, according to the UK representative, has made statements questioning the universality of human rights. It also called for “thorough and independent investigations into all violent deaths,” including those involving state actors.

The US, meanwhile, is “greatly concerned about ongoing reports on extrajudicial killings.”

Bishops in the Philippines Urge Bell-Ringing, Prayers to Protest Bloody Drugs War — “We disagree that a criminal has no more hope of changing his life.”

September 22, 2017

MANILA — Stepping up a campaign against President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, Catholic bishops in the Philippines have called for church bells to be rung for the next 40 nights, and congregations to light candles and pray for the killing to end.

A pastoral letter by Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) sent to priests urged Catholics to pray for victims from Saturday until All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1, when Filipinos traditionally pay respects to the dead.

More than 3,800 people have been killed in anti-drugs operations in the past 15 months and at least 2,100 murders are suspected of being drug-related, according to police data, though human rights groups believe the numbers are understated.

“The relentless and bloody campaign against drugs that shows no sign of abating impels us, your bishops, to declare: In the name of God, stop the killings!” Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the head of the CBCP, said in the letter.

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Archbishop Socrates Villegas: “In the name of God, stop the killings!”

Such messages are typically read aloud in church or distributed to their congregations.

Many Catholic churches in the capital have already started lighting candles and ringing bells for five minutes each day at 8 p.m..

Thousands of Filipinos rallied against Duterte on Thursday to protest against what they fear is an emerging dictatorship, and several churches held mass against the killings and urged people to renounce violence.

The bishops are among the most influential dissenting voices to come out against the Duterte’s uncompromising strategy.

Having been largely silent on the issue when it first erupted last year, priests have increasingly taken a stand against the anti-drugs campaign.

As bodies started to appear nightly in Manila’s slums, the church stepped up its opposition, denouncing the killings and in some cases, providing sanctuary to witnesses of killings and drug users who feared they could be targeted.

Villegas said the country’s bishops were firmly against drugs, but killing was not the solution and prayer was “the most powerful weapon in our arsenal”.

Rights groups dispute official police accounts that say drug suspects were killed because they violently resisted arrest. Critics accuse police of executing users and small-time dealers and planting evidence, which police reject.

Pablo Virgilio David, bishop in Manila’s Caloocan City, where large numbers of drug-related killings have taken place, urged the authorities to end the killings and let healing begin.

“We disagree that we should treat them like monsters to be eliminated like stray cats and dogs,” he said of drug users and criminals. “We disagree that a criminal has no more hope of changing his life.”

(Editing by Martin Petty & Simon Cameron-Moore)

Thousands Protest Duterte’s Drug War, Martial Law in Philippines

September 21, 2017

Protests coincide with the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by late dictator Ferdinand Marcos

MANILA—Thousands of antigovernment protesters thronged Manila on Thursday, in the largest outpouring of opposition against President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly war on drugs and strongman style of governance.

The protests, planned to coincide with the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, extend weeks of backlash against the Duterte administration following the alleged execution of a…


Thousands Rally in Philippines to Warn of Duterte ‘Dictatorship’ — “We are walking a doomed path.”

September 21, 2017

MANILA — Left-wing activists and political opponents of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte held rallies on Thursday to warn against what they see as the emergence of a dictatorship under the no-nonsense but hugely popular leader.

Politicians, indigenous people, church leaders, businessmen, and leftists marched, staged rallies and attended masses to denounce Duterte, accusing him of abuses and authoritarianism similar to that of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The events were to mark the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law under Marcos, which lasted nine years and is remembered by many Filipinos as brutal and oppressive.

Protesters raise their placards near a makeshift stage for the “day of protest” on the 45th anniversary of martial law in the country. Toledo IV

Vice President Leni Robredo appeared at a mass at the University of the Philippines, traditionally a hotbed of political activism, and was due to appear at a rally of the opposition Liberal Party she leads.

Robredo, who was not Duterte’s running mate, said Filipinos born after the Marcos era should not be complacent and should recognize signs of “rising tyranny”.

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 Vice President Leni Robredo. FILE Photo

“If we do not remember the past, we are condemned to repeat it,” she said in a statement. “Sadly those who are deceived do not even know that they are walking a doomed path.”

Marcos declared martial law in 1972, a year ahead of elections in which he was ineligible to run, and held power for 14 years until his removal in a bloodless, army-backed “people’s power” uprising.

He abolished democratic institutions and was accused of killing, torturing and “disappearing” thousands of opponents.

Duterte has expressed admiration for Marcos several times and his fiercest critics are alarmed by the former mayor’s autocratic rhetoric and his disdain for those who oppose him.

However, many millions are drawn to Duterte’s down-to-earth style, his decisiveness and his imperfections, and see him as a champion of ordinary Filipinos and the country’s best hope for the long overdue change that presidents from the political elite failed to bring.

Duterte declared Thursday a holiday for government workers and schools to give them a chance to protest against him. Several thousand demonstrators took the opportunity to gather separately to show their support for him.

The anti-Duterte demonstrators were not rallying in the same place or around a single issue. Some denounced his ferocious war on drugs that has killed thousands of Filipinos, while others railed against what they see as his cozy relationship with the still-powerful Marcos family.

Others complained about his pro-China stance, his threats to impose martial law nationwide and destruction in southern Marawi City by air strikes targeting Islamist militants, using U.S. military bombs and technical support.

“The people have not forgotten and will not allow a repeat of Marcosian rule,” said Renato Reyes, leader of the leftist Bayan (Nation) group.

Reyes decried widespread human rights violations under the government’s “fascist” war on drugs, and for letting the U.S. military involvement in Philippine security issues.

Demonstrators also planned to burn an effigy of Duterte on a throne, modeled on the evil character “Night King” in the popular television series “Game of Thrones”.

(Additional reporting by Dondi Tawatao and Ronn Bautista; Writing and additional reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty and Paul Tait)

See also The Philippine Star:

Philippine lawmakers do human rights backflip after outcry — Recent statements made by President Duterte showed “incoherence,” U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions says

September 21, 2017


© AFP/File | The initial move to cut the Commission on Human Rights’s budget was in response to its criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial war on drugs, which has claimed thousands of lives

MANILA (AFP) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s congressional allies have restored the budget of the nation’s human rights commission following an outcry over their vote last week to slash its annual funding to just $20.The initial move to cut the Commission on Human Rights’s budget was in response to its criticism of Duterte’s controversial war on drugs, which has claimed thousands of lives, with the president also verbally targeting its chairman with abuse.

Opposition lawmakers and other critics of the drug war condemned the vote in the House of Representatives, saying it was part of a campaign by Duterte and his allies to silence dissent and impose authoritarian rule.

House leaders said Wednesday night’s decision to restore the commission’s funding to 623 million pesos ($12.2 million) was because they had extracted an agreement from the commission to look at issues other than the drug war.

“The CHR specifically agreed to look at ALL FORMS of human rights abuses involving civil and political rights, including those allegedly committed by (communists), Abu Sayyaf (militants) and other private armed groups,” House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas said in a text message to AFP on Thursday.

The commission is one of several independent government bodies set up by the Philippine constitution to check the power of government, including police and military forces.

The body has been investigating some of the deaths of the more than 3,800 people reported killed by police and other drug enforcement agencies in the drug war, as well as thousands of unexplained murders.

The commission’s chief, Jose Luis Gascon, confirmed to AFP on Thursday he had met house leaders the previous day to discuss the proposed budget cut.

But he did not confirm Farinas’s version of the outcome, and emphasised that the commission would require even more money if it was to begin investigating alleged abuses by groups outside of government.

“I clarified that we already have programmes for promoting the rights of all,” Gascon told AFP in a text message.

“If we were to significantly expand our investigation work beyond violations of state authorities, it will require more funds beyond that currently in (the proposed budget).”

The opposition Liberal Party said the restoration of the commission’s budget was a victory for the many groups that voiced outrage at the initial decision.

“It is a win for human rights, for collective action, and for truth and reason,” the party said.

Duterte on Saturday likened Gascon to a “paedophile” and called him a “son of a whore” for expressing concern over the police killing teenagers in the drug war.


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Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions

Callamard: Kian’s death turning point in Duterte’s drug war

MANILA, Philippines — The death of 17-year-old Grade 11 student Kian Loyd delos Santos is a turning point in the Philippine government’s campaign against illegal drugs, according to United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard.

In an interview with French newspaper Liberation last week, Callamard said Delos Santos’ death was another defining moment following intense criticisms against the campaign earlier this year with the death of a South Korean businessman at the hands of the police.

“All the evidence before the public tends to show that it was executed by the police: the position of the body, bullets in the back, in the neck, shot at pointblank range, witnesses, cameras,” Callamard said in French.

“We must investigate not only Kian’s case, but (also) all the murders. All this demonstrates the importance of the independent investigation. There was a click. The President went to see the family. He should do it for all victims,” she added.

In an interview with French newspaper Liberation last week, Callamard said Delos Santos’ death was another defining moment following intense criticisms against the campaign earlier this year with the death of a South Korean businessman at the hands of the police. United Nations/Loey Felipe, File

Callamard noted “incoherence” in the recent statements made by President Duterte, noting the change of his tone regarding his support for police officers who are simply doing their job.

“The presidential speech becomes less coherent. He acknowledged that officers acting outside self-defense were guilty of murder, that the war on drugs did not succeed but at the same time it had to be continued,” she said, adding that the Philippines seems to contravene its obligations for failing to investigate all cases of alleged summary executions.

“The lack of investigation constitutes a violation of the right to life. This right to life is the right not to be arbitrarily executed. The obligation of an independent inquiry is even stronger when it comes to murders committed by state officials,” she said.

Callamard also maintained that she does not want to be exploited by Duterte by adhering to the Philippine government’s demands that she swears to under oath and engage the President in a public debate.

“Under current conditions, a public debate in the Philippines would not be impartial. I would be in a situation of weakness, and with me the United Nations as a whole,” she said.

“His strategy was to use the media, social networks and some raw language to get closer to its electoral base. It is out of the question that I enter this communication policy. I do not want to be exploited by Mr. Duterte,” she added.

Actress Goes Solo to Push for End to Philippines Drug War — While Many in The Philippines Pray for Duterte’s Success

September 19, 2017

MANILA — Mae Paner is a policeman-turned-assassin, a widowed Zumba dancer, a photojournalist and an orphaned child. They are all characters in her new one-woman show against a bloody war on drugs in the Philippines.

Paner, better known by her stage name “Juana Change”, said she wanted to add her voice to the condemnation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fierce 15-month-old campaign which has killed thousands of people.

“I feel very strongly that we have our work cut out for us as artists to wake people up, to wake our president up, and to tell him that we are against his war on drugs,” Paner told Reuters Television.

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Character actress Mae Paner – more popularly known as Juana Change – dressed up literally as ‘pork barrel.’ Photo by YouScooper Mulawin Galang

Paner portrays four characters who are affected by the drugs war, from the assassin grappling with his guilt and the journalist scarred by images of the nightly carnage, to widows and orphans crying out for justice.

Filipinos remain largely supportive of the campaign as a solution to tackling rampant crime, which Duterte says stems mostly from drug addiction.

Human rights groups, the Catholic Church and opposition lawmakers have raised alarm about the killings that have focused largely on the urban poor and have not spared young people.

More than 3,800 people have been killed in police anti-drugs operations in the past 15 months and at least 2,100 other homicides were likely drug related.

Police reject allegations by human rights groups that they are executing suspected users and dealers.

Some audience members who watched a recent performance of Paner’s play said they hoped it would prompt Filipinos to ask questions about the drugs war.

“The more this play is staged – wherever it may be shown, wherever more people can watch it – the more people can think and have much more informed opinions on this matter,” said Pastor Kakai Pamaran.

(Reporting by Ronn Bautista; Writing by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty and Darren Schuettler)


“We pray for the president.”

“We’re thinking of our grandchildren. If the drug situation has not changed by the time they’ve grown up, we will have a whole generation living in the clutch of addiction and corruption, of a country with no moral values.”

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The things we read about President Duterte make him so different, so unique as president of a country. They’re mostly derogatory. They call him by different names, think ill of his coddling the memory of the late dictator and the likelihood of returning his family to rule this country again. Critics despise his dictatorial tendencies, his rattling a sabre at those who cross his path and criticize him. He is no lover of freedom of speech and defenders of human rights.

But there are people who believe he is the savior of this country.

And they happen to be pastors and lay persons of Christian churches.

Last Friday, at a friend’s birthday party, a church-loving right hand man of one of the country’s affluent men, told a table of incredulous listeners about the good future of our grandchildren being on the hands of President Duterte.

And last Sunday, after attending a service at the Christ Commission Fellowship in Pasig, over a tray of crackling chicken thighs in a café, I heard another churchgoer say good things about Duterte.

This last speaker had been heavy on drugs for nearly a decade but gave it up because, he said, one night he dreamed about people walking around his coffin, saying, “Kawawa si  brod, namatay dahil sa drugs.”  When he woke up, he decided to turn over a new leaf. “I went to a church whose door was open, and I gave myself completely to Jesus.” He went into rehab, and his life was never the same again.

I asked him why CCF, which has millions of followers, does not touch on the subject of judicial killings. “No,” my friend said, “We don’t. We pray for the president.” They do not condemn him but pray for him.

The other friend said the same thing – and more. “Never have we had a president like him. We’ve had a lawyer, an economist, a military man, a housewife, as presidents. But none have done anything substantial to help curb the drug problem in our country. They probably did not realize the extent of the problem.

“We’re thinking of our grandchildren. If the drug situation has not changed by the time they’ve grown up, we will have a whole generation living in the clutch of addiction and corruption, of a country with no moral values.”

My friend went to the extent of prophesying that Duterte will install a revolutionary government. “He believes that he has been chosen by God to lift this country out of its morass. Only when this happens will there be peace and stability in our country.”

I just received an invitation to attend the 42nd anniversary of the Philippine National Prayer Breakfast Foundation Inc. (PNPBFI) on Nov. 23, with the theme “Doing right brings honor to a nation, but sin brings disgrace” (Prov. 14:34). President Duterte has been invited to attend the breakfast meeting as the special guest of honor, and Sen. Manny Pacquiao as guest speaker and Bishop Noel as spiritual speaker.

Justice Ruben T. Reyes (Ret.), PNPBFI chairman, writes that the trustees are inviting people to pray the “special Prayer for the Senate and House of Representatives.” Atty. Jose Tan Ramirez is the organization’s president.

It will be good to listen to the honorable speakers’ words on the state of the nation.

Senior Chinese Leader Says Has ‘Shared Destiny’ With Vietnam

September 19, 2017

BEIJING — China and Vietnam’s Communist Parties have a “shared destiny” and the two nations have huge potential for economic cooperation, a senior official said on Tuesday during a visit to Vietnam, which has clashed with China over the South China Sea.

Though the two countries are run by Communist parties, they are deeply suspicious of each other and relations have been strained over the past few years because of the dispute in the strategic South China Sea.

China has appeared uneasy at Vietnam’s efforts to rally Southeast Asian countries over the busy waterway as well as at its neighbor’s growing defense ties with the United States, Japan and India.

In July, under pressure from Beijing, Vietnam suspended oil drilling in offshore waters that are also claimed by China.

However, Hanoi and Beijing have also tried to prevent tensions from getting too out of control, and senior officials from two countries make fairly regular visits to each other.

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Liu Yunshan, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s elite Standing Committee which runs the country, told Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi that the two parties “constitute a community of shared destiny with strategic significance”, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The two economies are highly complementary, with huge potential for practical cooperation, he added.

While the report made no direction mention of the South China Sea, it quoted Liu as suggesting the two countries “properly manage and control their divergences, so as to create favorable environment for bilateral cooperation”.

China claims nearly all the South China Sea, through which an estimated $3 trillion in international trade passes each year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have claims.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)

See the report from Xinhua:



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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Duterte Invites U.N. Rights Body to Open Philippine Office as Drug Killings Climb

September 18, 2017

MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday invited the United Nations’ human rights monitor to set up office in the country and join all anti-narcotic operations, amid growing public and global criticism of his bloody war on drugs.

“I will personally through an official channel invite the human rights commission to set up a satellite office here,” Duterte told reporters after attending the wake of a slain policeman, referring to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“I will tell police station commanders, do not operate without a representative of the U.N. human rights commission and everybody must wear a camera so it will all be transparent.”

The comments were a marked change from Duterte’s usual disdain for the United Nations, which he once threatened to withdraw from after U.N. human rights experts and rapporteurs expressed concern about the huge death toll in his signature war on drugs.

Thousands of people, mostly poor urban Filipinos, have been killed since he took office in June 2016.

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 Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions

The OHCHR had no immediate comment on Duterte’s remarks.

Duterte has also made a public debate with U.N. envoys a prerequisite for any visit or investigation related to the anti-drug campaign.

His outreach to the United Nations comes as the Philippine National Police (PNP) comes under heavy criticism over the deaths in August of two teenagers. Police say they were killed in self defense, but activists and political opponents have said it was cold-blooded murder.

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Duterte and his allies were chided last week after lawmakers allied with Duterte supported giving the Philippines Commission on Human Rights an annual budget of just 1,000 pesos ($19.55), which critics at home and abroad said would be tantamount to destroying a constitutional body.

The firebrand leader in a speech on Saturday taunted CHR head Chito Gascon by asking him if he was gay, or a pedophile, and if he was “smitten with teenagers”, referring to his comments about the latest incident.

Duterte on Monday said he had no plan to abolish the CHR.

He also said the proposed 678 million peso budget would be used to buy body cameras for the PNP during anti-drug operations, to show transparency.

More than 3,800 people have been killed in police anti-drugs operations in the past 15 months and at least 2,100 other homicides were likely drug-related. Police reject allegations by human rights groups that they are executing suspected users and dealers.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty and Kim Coghill)


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Protesters burn an effigy of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila. AFP photo