Pubdate: Wed, 24 Aug 2016
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2016 The New York Times Company
Authors: Felipe Villamor and Richard C. Paddock


MANILA - The soaring number of killings by the police in the 
Philippines is being caused by drug suspects who choose to battle 
officers instead of surrendering, the nation's top police official 
told lawmakers on Tuesday.

"If they did not fight it out with police, they would be alive," said 
the national police chief, Ronald dela Rosa, who is heading the 
country's deadly antidrug war.

He said the number of deaths since the campaign began on July 1 had 
jumped to 1,916 - 137 more than the figure he gave senators on 
Monday, the first of two days of hearings devoted to the killings. He 
said on Tuesday that reports of killings came in daily from police 
units around the country. "As I was presenting yesterday," he said, 
"there were people killed."

Of the total dead, he said, 756 were suspects killed by the police 
and 1,160 were killed "outside police operations," many of them by 
vigilantes. Eighty bodies have been found with cardboard signs 
proclaiming them to be drug dealers, he said. Not all the killings 
were drug-related, he said, and the police are investigating.

The campaign to eradicate drugs, mainly methamphetamine, was started 
by the Philippines' new president, Rodrigo Duterte, who has made 
going after drug dealers and users his highest priority since taking 
office on June 30. He has repeatedly called for eliminating drug 
sellers and addicts, and gave the police shoot-to-kill orders when 
facing suspects who resist.

The president's campaign against drugs has broad public support, and 
Chief dela Rosa said members of the public were pleased by what he 
asserted was an immediate reduction in all categories of crime once 
the police effort began.

The wave of killings, however, has come under attack from human 
rights advocates and some elected officials who contend that those 
accused of a crime should have a chance to defend themselves in 
court, not be gunned down in the street.

In addition, some family members of victims have challenged the 
police version of events and say their loved ones were not resisting 
arrest when they were killed.

The two days of hearings on the killings were held by the Senate's 
Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the Committee on Public 
Order and Dangerous Drugs. The Human Rights Committee has identified 
witnesses and relatives in at least 11 suspected wrongful killings, 
but most of them were not called to testify.

One senator, Panfilo Lacson, a former national police chief, said the 
antidrug campaign was both "impressive and alarming," and he asked 
whether the police were following standard operating procedures.

Chief dela Rosa called the drug eradication program "a total war" but 
said the police were following established procedures. Officers have 
not been ordered to kill drug dealers, he said, but have become more 
aggressive because they know they have Mr. Duterte's support.

"We are not butchers," he said.

Before becoming president, Mr. Duterte was mayor of Davao City, where 
a similar wave of killings starting in the 1980s reduced drug dealing 
and other crime. Chief dela Rosa was the police chief in Davao, the 
Philippines' largest city outside metropolitan Manila, before Mr. 
Duterte named him to head the national police.

The police also are trying to eradicate drugs and criminal behavior 
within their own ranks, the chief told the senators. Eleven rogue 
police officers have been killed in police operations, 130 officers 
have tested positive for drug use and 20 have been arrested, he said.

Fatalities outside police operations in the recent spate of deaths 
have included two police officers, eight soldiers, 29 elected 
officials and 10 government employees, he said. The deaths are under 

Lawmakers heard testimony on Monday from Mary Rose Aquino, who said 
her parents were police informers and were killed by corrupt officers 
who took drugs for themselves and feared being identified. On 
Tuesday, Chief dela Rosa said he had suspended five officers 
connected with that case, pending an investigation.

Lawmakers also heard on Monday from Harra Kazuo, whose husband, 
Jaypee Bertes, and his father, Renato Bertes, were killed by officers 
inside a jail cell at the Pasay City police station. The chief said 
on Tuesday that the two officers involved would face murder charges.

"It pains us to file a murder case against them," he said. 
"Otherwise, people will say we are covering up for them."

During a news conference on Sunday in Davao City, Mr. Duterte 
responded to criticism about his human rights record from American 
officials by citing police shootings of black men in the United States.

"Why are you Americans killing the black people there, shooting them 
down when they are already on the ground?" he asked. "Answer that 
question, because even if it's just one or two or three, it is still 
human rights violations."

Mark Toner, a spokesman for the State Department, said the United 
States was "by no means perfect, but we strive to have in place a 
justice system that treats all people with respect and respects their 
human rights."

Felipe Villamor reported from Manila, and Richard C. Paddock from Bangkok.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom