Int’l rights group claims PNP underreports drug war deaths under Marcos admin
MANILA, Philippines — An international human rights monitoring group has claimed that the Philippine National Police (PNP) has underreported the number of drug war deaths under the current administration, saying that other observations suggest a higher number.
In a statement on Friday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said the PNP may have been grossly downplaying recent deaths in the war against illegal drugs after PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said that the 46 deaths during lawful anti-drug operations since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took office were “very minimal.”
READ: PNP: 46 killed in drug war under Marcos’ very minimal’
In contrast, Robertson said that the University of the Philippines (UP) Third World Studies Center tallied 127 deaths in drug war operations since Marcos was inaugurated, President.
“The [PNP] on Tuesday sought to downplay recent killings in the so-called ‘war on drugs’, claiming the death toll since the inauguration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was ‘very minimal’,” Robertson said.
“The police reported that 46 people were killed during anti-drug operations since Marcos took office on June 30. But this is far below the estimate of the [UP] Third World Studies Center, whose Dahas program monitors’ drug war’ violence. The program tallied that 127 people were killed in ‘drug war’ incidents from July 1, the day after Marcos was sworn in, to November 7,” he added.
Robertson accused the PNP of having a record of twisting numbers to fit their narrative. However, should the recent PNP numbers be true, the human rights group leader said that labeling 46 deaths as “very minimal” reeks of insensitivity.
“Even if one accepts the PNP’s figures, calling this death toll ‘very minimal’ smacks of insensitivity and callousness. Since the anti-drug campaign began seven years ago under then-president Rodrigo Duterte, thousands of families of people gunned down have been crying out for justice,” he claimed.
“Over that period, the police have admitted [ to] killing more than 6,200 suspected drug users or dealers, mostly impoverished Filipinos. But the PNP has been known to manipulate its statistics on extrajudicial killings related to the campaign,” he added.
Azurin, in a forum with foreign reporters last Monday, said that out of the 46 deaths, 32 happened during police operations while 14 in operations conducted by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
PNP and other government agencies have reiterated that they would be implementing a drug war that is more compliant with the law and human rights — referring to the criticisms against the past administration that the program’s implementation was too violent and bloody.
READ: Campaign vs illegal drugs to continue; PNP to be ‘compliant with law’ — Palace
READ: PNP chief recalibrating ‘drug war’ in villages
According to Robertson, it seems there’s no shift in the drug war policies under Marcos, compared to the program implemented by former president Rodrigo Duterte.
“Not only has the violence continued, but Marcos also made clear that he is not going to undertake a policy change regarding illegal drugs. In September, he said he wanted to focus on rehabilitation, but there is no evidence that the authorities have done anything to make such a shift,” Robertson said.
“The government’s few so-called drug rehabilitation efforts currently underway are rights abusing, as they are involuntary, coercive, and expose drug users to further stigma,” he added.
While Duterte has been credited for starting a whole-of-nation approach to the drug war, he was also called out for supposedly encouraging killings. During Duterte’s time, several reports of drug suspects being summarily executed, including one case — that of Kian delos Santos — where police officers were found guilty of murder.
INQUIRER.net has asked both the PNP and Office of the Press Secretary for their comments on Robertson’s claims but have not responded as of posting time.
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