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Philippines: Duterte Spokesman says Rogue Officers Hurt Police Image

Luis Liwanag and Richel V. Umel
Manila and Cebu, Philippines
2019-02-28
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A Philippine officer stands near the body of a suspected drug user in an alley in Manila’s Tondo district, Sept. 25, 2016.
A Philippine officer stands near the body of a suspected drug user in an alley in Manila’s Tondo district, Sept. 25, 2016.
Luis Liwanag/BenarNews

A spokesman for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte admitted Thursday that there were “rotten eggs” among police spearheading the war on drugs amid rising concerns about unnecessary killings.

Duterte spokesman Salvador Panelo said the government recognized that certain officers were pulling down the overall police image.

“Just like in any organization, the palace is aware that there are rotten eggs that tend to destroy the integrity of the great institution that is the Philippine National Police,” he said.

The Commission on Human Rights responded by saying the admission validated concerns including allegations that some rogue cops were planting evidence or have been involved in the drug trade.

“Such allegations are causes of grave concerns, especially that the death count continues to rise and drug operations are in full throttle,” commission spokeswoman Jacqueline Ann de Guia said. “These results also come at a time when the Philippine National Police (PNP) claims to have no objective count of the number of drug users in the Philippines.”

De Guia was referring to Duterte’s claim early this week that there were between 7 million and 8 million drug addicts in the country. The president did not explain where he got his figures as the Dangerous Drugs Board previously pegged the number at 1.8 million as of 2016.

“We urge the government to take appropriate urgent, concrete actions that address perceptions of the police being involved in the violation of laws and rights,” de Guia said, adding that the agency was prepared to work with law enforcers to lessen human rights violations.

A new poll by the Social Weather Stations found that 28 percent of adult Filipinos believed police were not truthful about their claims that some slain drug suspects had fought back.

Panelo argued that to be fair, pollsters should have asked a question regarding the good deeds of police in the war against drugs. He stressed that 165 officers had been killed, while nearly 600 others wounded in clashes with drug syndicates.

“These figures dispel allegations of critics and detractors on legitimate drug operations and show that drug pushers and addicts actually resort to violence when confronted with a threat of apprehension,” Panelo said.

He said police were not exempt from corruption, but leadership has been trying to clean ranks by establishing a special task force to go after rogue officers.

Duterte warning

He stressed this “zero tolerance” policy against dirty police was made apparent with the November 2018 conviction of three officer for killing a 17-year-old student. The August 2017 shooting death of Kian Loyd delos Santos touched off massive protests against Duterte’s drug war.

Recently, Duterte warned that the drug war would be harsher as he finishes the last three years of his six-year term.

Despite that warning, Panelo said Duterte and government officials are intolerant to any kind of abuse, especially from police enforcing his tough anti-drugs policy.

On Thursday, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said 72 suspects were killed in anti-drug operations in January, bringing the total number of deaths since the campaign began three years ago to 5,176. It said more than 119,000 anti-drug operations were carried out, resulting in 170,000 arrests over the three years.

It did not include the thousands of others whose deaths were considered as under investigation or blamed on vigilantes. Some estimates, including those from the Human Rights Watch, have placed the deaths at more than 20,000.

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