Don’t be surprised if drug suspects die fighting ‘trained to kill’ enforcers – Duterte
MANILA, Philippines — Rights groups and administration critics should not be surprised if drug suspects would die during legitimate operations if they should fight law enforcers who had been trained to kill, President Rodrigo Duterte said in his taped briefing that aired on Monday night.
“But you will say, you will wonder why many of them are killed. It’s really because my police and my Army, they are trained to kill. What else is the purpose ng their being soldiers and police officers, among other duties?” Duterte said, speaking partly in Filipino.
According to the President, he does not allow law enforcers to shoot down suspects or adversaries who are already kneeling to surrender or those who are looking in the opposite direction.
But if operation targets like those involved in the drug trade would face officers while carrying firearms, it would be a different story.
“A lot of police officers, they have to deal with the civilian population. The military is really only looking for who to arrest or who to kill. Let’s not kid ourselves here. They are trained to be soldiers, and they are not allowed to kill a man kneeling down or with his back turned. That’s really forbidden. I myself told them it’s forbidden,” Duterte stressed.
“Those who are facing them with firearms — these drug people — well, if you let them fight the police, if you let them fight the military with their training, they will really die. That’s certain. And then you say they were deliberately killed? Not in that case. They really fought back,” he said.
Duterte’ made these remarks on the heels of the praise that the Philippine National Police (PNP) got allowing state investigators to look into some drug war files. Even those critical of his administration lauded the decision.
Recently, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) also praised the PNP, particularly its new chief, Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, for opening some of its drug war records for scrutiny. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that it would make investigations.
Several groups, including those critical of the president, said the measure would a test of honesty for Eleazar.
Still some organizations remained skeptical that these “baby steps” would yield positive results.
Should rights groups still feel unsure about the government’s commitment, Duterte said that they were invited to observe how authorities carry out an operation from a safe distance.
“We do not mind you even accompanying or being with the teams that are operating. Different teams, you are invited to join… You can keep a healthy distance and see how the government operates,” Duterte said.
“Because in the process, many of my police officers would be killed every now and then. Almost weekly, there would be police officers who would die, including the military. So remember that: It’s not that we killed ll the bad people,” he added.
Duterte has been frequently criticized for his drug war, with groups accusing him of condoning rights abuses and even extrajudicial killings during police operations.
To date, only one group of police officers have been convicted for killing a “drug suspect.” These were those who summarily executed 17-year-old Kian de los Santos. In 2018, a Caloocan court found three officers guilty of killing the teenager, even if he was not the actual target of that operation.
This case and other similar incidents have been a major rallying point for countries urging the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to do a full-blown probe of the rights situation in the Philippines. However, UNHRC relented, urging member-states instead to provide technical assistance to the country.