MANILA police shot dead 25 drug suspects in another round of anti-drug raids, authorities said Thursday, as they followed President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for dozens of deaths a day.
The killings, carried out in Manila from Wednesday to Thursday morning, came after police shot dead 32 drug suspects in the province neighboring the capital early in the week in what was billed as a “shock and awe” operation against drug traffickers.
Manila police spokesman Senior Supt. Erwin Margarejo said the 25 were killed in 18 various operations against drug suspects.
“It is a simultaneous police operation. All the units and stations of MPD (Manila police district) conducted their own operations,” Margarejo said.
Duterte on Wednesday praised the killings of the 32 suspects in Bulacan province, describing the operations as “good.”
“If we could kill another 32 everyday, then maybe we can reduce what ails this country,” Duterte said.
However, Philippine National Police spokesman Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos insisted that officers in Bulacan and Manila had killed only in self-defense.
“Can you blame the police now when the initial action is perpetrated by the suspect?” he said.
As a matter of procedure, however, the PNP Internal Affairs Service will investigate the killings, he added.
Duterte easily won last year’s presidential election largely on a vow to kill tens of thousands of drug traffickers and addicts, which he said was necessary to stop the country’s slide to narco-state status.
Police have killed more than 3,500 people in drug raids since Duterte came to office in the middle of last year, according to government data.
More than 2,000 other people have been killed in drug-related crimes and thousands more murdered in unexplained circumstances, according to the police.
He has also repeatedly assured policemen that he will protect them if they are charged for killing drug suspects as part of his campaign.
Rights groups have warned Duterte, who has said he would be “happy to slaughter” 3 million drug addicts, may be orchestrating a crime against humanity.
Wilnor Papa, Philippine human rights officer of Amnesty International, said the apparent uptick in killings this week appeared to be because of Duterte’s calls for more deaths.
“Because of the remarks of the President, these kind of killings will go on,” Papa said.
Duterte on Thursday rejected calls from human rights activists for the administration to stop his bloody war on drugs.
“Human rights? Son of a bitch! I don’t care about you. I’ve got work to do and I’m going to do it. If you destroy the country, the youth of the land, I will kill you,” the President said in Filipino on a visit to Ozamiz City, where police killed the mayor, his wife and 13 others in a raid on July 30.
Rights groups on Thursday called on the President to retract a statement calling on the police to shoot rights activists for obstructing justice.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella defended the shooting deaths in Bulacan, saying they were the result of simultaneous police operations in the entire province.
He added that in these cases, the suspects fought back.
“Local authorities were met with violent resistance as evidenced by the recovery of firearms, grenades and live ammunition,” he said.
On Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte expressed satisfaction on the record-high anti-drug operations in Bulacan as a “good” development, saying that the daily killings will solve the country’s drug problem.
“Thirty-two died early in Bulacan, in a massive raid. That’s good. If we can kill another 32 everyday then maybe we can reduce what ails this country,” the President said.
“I will solve the entire problem. I’ll just kill them all,” he said.
Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday urged the public to express outrage over a 24-hour police operation that killed 32 drug suspects in Bulacan.
“We are not like this. This is not us,” Robredo told ABS-CBN News in Filipino.
“We have long condemned the culture of impunity. Let us not allow it to return.”
Amnesty International said Duterte’s drug war appeared to be “plumbing new depths of barbarity.”
“No one is bearing the brunt of this brutality more than the poorest communities in areas such as Bulacan province, a hotspot for extrajudicial executions since the President took power, and the scene of yesterday’s 32 killings,” said Jams Gomez, director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific at Amnesty International.
The group also expressed alarm at Duterte’s threat to abolish the Commission on Human Rights.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch urged Duterte to retract his remark about shooting rights activists “before there is more blood on his hands.”
Rights group Karapatan said that the President’s repeated threats and orders to shoot and kill activists is “exacerbating the already dire situation in the country.”
“His fascist campaigns against poor Filipinos—the war on drugs, his counter-insurgency war, and martial law in Mindanao—have already resulted in the killing, displacement and threats to lives, among others,” Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said.
But former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada expressed support for the anti-crime campaign, and warned offenders to turn over a new leaf.
“In support of President Duterte’s war against drugs and criminality, we in the city of Manila have been serious in stamping out criminality and maintaining peace and order, and so I’m repeating my warning to criminals: give up or face the full force of the law,” Estrada said.
Estrada commended MPD director Chief Supt. Joel Coronel and his men for ridding Manila of unwanted criminals and preserving peace and order; he also reassured the city police force of the city government’s continuous support.
“I have your back, just make sure that this operation is carried out within the parameters of the law and the suspects’ rights are not violated,” he told Coronel.
On Thursday afternoon, Estrada received a briefing from Coronel concerning the “one-time, big-time” operation that started Wednesday night. With AFP, Sara Susanne D. Fabunan