Pubdate: Tue, 23 Aug 2016
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2016 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Felipe Villamore, New York Times


MANILA - Killings by the police and vigilantes in the Philippines' 
war on drugs have soared to nearly 1,800 in the seven weeks since 
President Rodrigo Duterte was sworn into office, the nation's top 
police official told a Senate hearing on Monday.

Under Duterte, who campaigned on a pledge to rid the country of drug 
dealers, 712 suspects have been killed in police operations, National 
Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa said. Vigilante killings have totaled 
1,067 during the same period, he said, although it was unclear how 
many were directly related to the illegal drug trade.

The numbers represent a huge increase over those cited by the police 
last week, when they put the total at more than 800 since Duterte's 
election on May 9.

The police did not explain the sudden increase. Senators are expected 
to question them about the tally on Tuesday during a second day of 
joint hearings by the chamber's committee on justice and human rights 
and the committee on public order and dangerous drugs.

Duterte is said to have incited the wave of killings with his vow to 
eradicate crime. He has said the police should "shoot to kill" when 
they encounter members of organized crime or suspects who violently 
resist arrest.

Human rights advocates have been horrified by the killings, but 
Duterte's popularity has soared among a large segment of Filipinos 
weary of crime and enthusiastic about his pledge to rid the country 
of drug dealers.

Senator Leila de Lima, a longtime Duterte opponent who led the 
hearing on Monday, called on the government to end the killings.

"I strongly believe extrajudicial or extralegal killings, whether 
perpetrated by the state or by nonstate actors, must stop," she said. 
"Blatant disregard for human life has to stop."

Richard Javad Heydarian, who teaches political science at De La Salle 
University in Manila, said many members of the public were giving 
Duterte leeway to deliver on his promise to suppress the drug scourge 
within three to six months. Duterte's "shock and awe" approach 
reflects not only his commitment to eradicating drugs, Heydarian 
said, but also extremely high public expectations.

"The more fundamental question at this point is, why the seemingly 
unprecedented support for the new president despite global criticism 
of his uncompromising approach?" he said. "I think it largely has to 
do with dissipated public trust in existing judicial institutions, a 
sense that the normal democratic processes are not coping with the 
magnitude of the crisis."

In recent days, the president has lashed out at critics. On Sunday, 
he threatened to withdraw from the United Nations after two human 
rights experts from the world body urged the country to stop the 
killings. Duterte's foreign minister later said the Philippines would 
not take that step.

Last week, Duterte sharply criticized de Lima, calling her immoral 
and accusing her of receiving money from drug dealers, a charge she 
emphatically denies.

On Monday, the senators heard from two women whose family members had 
been killed by the police.

Mary Rose Aquino, who testified wearing a bandanna, sunglasses, and a 
hooded sweatshirt so she could not be recognized, said her parents 
were found dead on June 20. Her father had been an informant for 
corrupt police officers who would raid dealers and take the drugs for 
themselves, she said. Sometimes the officers would smoke 
methamphetamine at their home, she said.

"I know who they are," she told the senators. "I can recognize their 
faces, others by their names. My father was a police asset who 
informed police what houses to raid. They would then resell the drug."

She said her parents had planned to get out of the drug trade, and 
she blamed the police for their deaths. She and her siblings have 
been hiding from the police since their parents died, she said, sobbing.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom