The Philippine police said Thursday that officers killed three suspected small-time drug peddlers, as President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to protect policemen from prosecution in his ongoing war on illegal narcotics.
A raid late Wednesday led to the deaths of two middle-aged men in Pasay city, a suburb of Manila, and the arrest of another suspect, police said. Earlier in the day, a man was killed when he allegedly pulled a gun on officers.
In both cases, the suspects fought it out with the police, who claimed their actions were “justified” because they were in imminent danger.
The killings occurred 11 days after police commandos launched a pre-dawn raid on the home of Reynaldo Parojinog, the mayor of the southern city of Ozamiz who was killed in the anti-drug operation. His wife and brother were among 14 others who were also slain, in what police claimed was a gun battle.
He was the third mayor on Duterte’s list of 150 politicians, judges, policemen and military personnel, whom the president said were involved in the illegal drug trade.
The 72-year-old leader had vowed to crush illegal drugs in three months, or he would resign. He later took back that pledge and acknowledged that he had miscalculated the gravity of the drug trade.
More than 8,000 people have died so far in the drug war, including suspects gunned down by police and those whose deaths were blamed on vigilantes.
Apart from Parojinog, Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. of central Albuera town was killed in his jail cell during an alleged shootout with police in October.
In the same month, police also gunned down another mayor in the southern Philippines after he allegedly rammed through a roadblock and shot at officers.
All three were on Duterte’s list, and on Wednesday, he reiterated that the police and military forces were directly under his command, and that those charged with killings while performing their duties would be pardoned, if convicted.
He said that he had lost more than 80 cops, and nearly 300 soldiers helping in the drug war, and yet rights groups have chosen to focus on the death of suspects.
“And time and again, I’ve been warning this country about the pitfalls of being a narco-politics country,” he said in a speech before police officers, transcripts of which were released Thursday.
He said Espinosa had controlled drug syndicates in n the eastern portion of Visayas region, in the central Philippines, while Parojinog was a kingpin in the south.
Duterte alleged, without offering proof, that Espinosa “killed more than seven policemen during his time who resisted these illegal, criminal syndicates. And nothing happened.”
Shoot them dead
The president added: “[I]’ve always told you that if you have to shoot, shoot them dead. And this is what the human rights idiots are trying to complain [about]. You know, when I say, “I’ll shoot them dead,” I’d prefer [that you] shoot them in the heart or in the head. That’s the end of the problem. “
However, he said he did not order policemen “to kill a human being kneeling down or their hands astride in surrender.”
“And I tell you now: Do your duty and I will protect you. Do not abuse, do not commit crime, not the extra-judicial killing pictured by the human rights (groups), just leave them alone,” Duterte said.
“For after all, we have had training about shooting. If they want to put up a violent fight, thereby placing yourself, the lawmen, in jeopardy, go for it. That is my order,” he said.
At a later date, he said he planned to visit Ozamiz, where he said there allegedly were “a lot of policemen” murdered by Parojinog.
“All the criminals here, if you insist on a drug war, I will kill you all. I will kill you. That is my warning to all,” Duterte said.
In Ozamiz, the mayor’s coffin was in a gymnasium as a stream of supporters paid their last respects. A long line of flowers and messages of sympathies could be seen stretching outside.
Heavily armed policemen have been deployed to the city, ahead of a likely outbreak of violence amid reports that supporters of the Parojinog family planned to retaliate.
“People are very, very angry and afraid of the police,” said the slain mayor’s sister, Mina. “If they had the evidence to prove guilt, they could have just arrested them. Not murder them.”
People in the village of San Roque walk near displays of flowers during the wake of Reynaldo Parojinog, the late mayor of Ozamiz city. [Mark Navales/BenarNews]