More suspected drug pushers and addicts were killed in sustained counter-narcotics operations during the past two weeks, Philippine police announced on Thursday.
At least 4,300 police operations were carried out from Jan. 29 to Feb. 14, leading to the surrender of 2,137 suspects, the national police said in a statement.
It said that since President Rodrigo Duterte reactivated the police in the country's anti-drug war in December, “sixty-five died in police operations on PNP’s (national police) intensified anti-illegal drug campaign.”
While no breakdown was given on recent deaths, police earlier reported killing 46 drug suspects from Dec. 5, 2017, to Feb. 2. If both numbers are correct, another 19 drug suspects were killed since Feb. 2 despite pledges from national police chief Dir. Gen. Ronald dela Rosa that the reactivation of Duterte’s drug war would be less bloody.
The new figure brings the total number of deaths to 4,033 since Duterte took office in 2016, according to a tally by BenarNews staff.
The government figures do not include the thousands believed to have been killed by pro-government vigilantes.
Duterte has repeatedly said that those deaths should be blamed on rival drug syndicates who were killing competitors and pinning the blame on vigilantes. Human Rights Watch and the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, along with other rights groups, claim that at least 12,000 have been killed.
The killings of three teenagers last year during drug sweeps caused widespread anger and condemnation, forcing Duterte in October 2017 to remove police from the lead role in the drug war, only to have them resume it on Dec. 5, 2017.
There was scant evidence against the three slain teenagers, and in one case, murder charges have been filed against three officers involved in killing a 17-year-old.
Police: campaign is effective
Police have said that the number of casualties in the drug war was high because the suspects were slain as they tried to fight it out with the police.
Dela Rosa said “persuasive efforts will be more active in the coming days and months.”
Last week, the International Criminal Court in The Hague said it was opening a preliminary investigation into accusations that Duterte had committed “crimes against humanity” in the course of his government’s crackdown.
The inquiry would try to gauge whether there was enough evidence to warrant charges.
Duterte, who vowed during the campaign for the presidency that he would turn Manila Bay into a dumping ground for dead bodies, has welcomed the inquiry.
At the same time, he insisted there was no evidence directly linking him to the deaths.
Felipe Villamor in Manila contributed to this report.