No EJK cases linked to drug gangs, says Human Rights Watch
MANILA, Philippines — An international human rights group on Tuesday described as “specious, self-serving and utterly without basis” President Rodrigo Duterte’s assertion that most cases of extrajudicial killings (EJK) during his term were carried out by vigilantes and gangs.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), no EJK incidents have ever been linked to drug syndicates since the government launched its war on drugs in 2016, adding that in contrast, it has been “credibly established” that police and local authorities were often behind most of the cases.
In many of these incidents, “police routinely [manufactured] evidence, by planting drugs and weapons on dead suspects at the scene of the alleged crime, to justify their claim that the suspects had fought back,” said HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson.
“Moreover, the police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) admit that they have killed nearly 6,000 in these antidrug operations but have no investigations to show in virtually all these cases,” he added. “Once again, Duterte is manufacturing a story or ‘fake news,’ to use the moniker he likes to use, to divert attention from killers in the ranks of the police to so-called drug syndicates.”
In a televised speech on Monday night, the President blamed EJKs on turf wars between warring drug syndicates, stressing that the government had nothing to do with it.
“Many are saying that I don’t follow the rule of law and I had killed many. I didn’t kill anyone,” he said, adding that he had never ordered people killed.
The President’s claim was backed by the Philippine National Police whose spokesperson said that warring drug syndicates were known to “kill each other.”
“You know a drug cartel is composed of people who will protect their king, who will protect their interest, who will protect their information, because it’s illegal. They are an organized crime. There is honor among thieves. Now, if their honor is violated, what is the consequence? They kill each other,“ Col. Ysmael Yu, the PNP spokesperson, told the Inquirer.
He added that other drug syndicates “base their transaction on word of honor and if they don’t comply with what was agreed upon, the killings happen.”
At times, the killings were due to disputes over territory, Yu said.
He insisted that the alleged EJKs in the drug war were not state-sponsored.
“We follow the rule of law—the PNP operational procedure and rules of engagement and, of course, respect for human rights,” Yu said.
The PDEA said that as of Aug. 31, there were 5,856 suspects killed in the drug war that started on July 1, 2016.
—With reports from Nestor Corrales and Julie M. Aurelio
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