Philippine police said Thursday they had killed 10 suspects in anti-drugs operations north of Manila, while human rights watchdog Amnesty International reported that “crimes against humanity” may have occurred in the Duterte administration’s ongoing war on narcotics.
Police said 63 other suspects were arrested and at least one was wounded in the raids, which took place from around 12 a.m. Wednesday till early Thursday in suburban Bulacan province. Officers from 24 police stations took part, provincial police chief Senior Supt. Romeo Caramat Jr said in a statement.
“Bulacan police is continuously and relentlessly implementing its intensified campaign against illegal drugs,” Caramat said, adding that those arrested were properly booked.
The new killings bring the death toll in the drug war to at least 4,043 people since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016, according to a tally compiled by BenarNews from police records.
The figures do not include thousands of other suspects believed to have been killed by pro-Duterte vigilantes, a claim the president has publicly rejected. He instead has blamed rival drug gangs for many of the killings, which have totaled at least 12,000, according to estimates from human rights advocacy groups.
Amnesty: ‘Systematic, planned, organized’
Despite overwhelming evidence the government continued to deny that gunmen with links to police were involved in the “wave” of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects, London-based Amnesty International (AI) said Thursday in releasing its annual report in Manila.
“The deliberate, unlawful and widespread killings of thousands of alleged drug offenders appeared to be systematic, planned, organized and encouraged by the authorities, and may have constituted crimes against humanity,” the report said.
“Most of those killed were from poor urban communities,” it said.
Amnesty noted that the successive killings of three teenagers last year in Duterte’s drug war had provoked a national outcry. It forced the president to remove police temporarily from a lead role in anti-narcotics operations in October. Duterte reinstated police in a frontline role in December.
“Meaningful investigations into killings of alleged drug offenders failed to take place; no officers were known to have been held into account,” AI said. “Relatives of victims continued to be fearful of reprisals if they filed complaints against police.”
AI issued its report two weeks after the International Criminal Court in The Hague said it was opening a preliminary investigation into whether President Duterte had committed “crimes against humanity” in the course of his government’s crackdown on narcotics.
Duterte has welcomed the inquiry, but his spokesman said administration officials believed it would not succeed because there was no direct evidence linking the president to the killings.
Felipe Villamor in Manila contributed to this report.