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25 dead in Manila anticrime sweep

VACC GUESTS President Duterte and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II confer during a break in the program to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption in Malacañang. —JOAN BONDOC

At least 25 people died overnight in police operations in Manila, authorities said on Thursday, a second night of heavy bloodshed this week in an intensification of President Duterte’s fierce war on drugs.

The killings across Manila followed 32 deaths in near-simultaneous police raids on Monday night in Bulacan province, which borders the capital.

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Together, they mark the deadliest period of the war on drugs that has killed thousands of people in the Philippines and caused international alarm since Mr. Duterte launched the crackdown upon taking office last year.

Supt. Erwin Margarejo, spokesperson for the Manila Police District, said the “one time, big time” operation—the same term Bulacan police used to describe Monday night’s sweeps across the province—was conducted to curtail effectively the illegal drug trade in the capital.

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Margarejo said the operations were carried out in the Central Market area, Malate, Moriones, Sampaloc, Santa Ana, Pandacan and Ermita districts.

The suspects were killed in exchanges of gunfire with arresting officers, he said.

Not all of those who died were drug suspects, according to Margarejo.

He said 11 of the dead were involved in robbery.

Margarejo said 70 drug suspects were arrested during the operations, with officers from the Tondo police station bringing in the highest number of suspects, 24.

Officers from the Sampaloc station brought in 23, he said.

It was not immediately clear what was behind the step-up in the number of coordinated police operations this week, but Mr. Duterte gave a clear indication on Wednesday that it had his blessing.

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The Philippine National Police chief , Director General Ronald dela Rosa, said there was nothing unusual about the deaths in Bulacan because the suspects put up a fight.

In a speech to members of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, Mr. Duterte said it was “good” that 32 drug suspects were killed in Bulacan.

“Thirty-two were killed in a massive raid in Bulacan. That is good,” he said. “If we could kill 32 every day, then maybe we could reduce what ails this country.”

The President said the killings could raise an outcry from human rights advocates, but added that he was sure the killings were not planned, as the police would not get anything from such an action except legal problems.

He lamented that some people just refuse to believe that the Philippines is facing a massive drug problem—one that takes a toll on both victims and criminals—and that some police who are supposed to be helping him solve the problem are involved in the narcotics trade.

Turning on his critics, who twit him for extending his war on drugs beyond the six months he set last year, Mr. Duterte said: “Those fools, they say it can’t be done. They said, ‘He can’t do it.’ What if you were in my place? I who ordered the killing couldn’t do it, how much more you?”

He added: “Let’s not have drama here. You will be far worse than what we have now.”

Mr. Duterte said he did not order the killing of specific people, but the destruction of the apparatus.

Human rights

He chided human rights advocates, warning them that he would investigate them someday for “conspiracy.”

“[T]hey make so much noise. What about the human rights? They can only make recommendations. They can write anything. Condemn the police, condemn everybody. When it comes to the recommendations, there’s nothing,” he said.

Mr. Duterte criticized Commission on Human Rights chief Luis Gascon, calling him a “foolish mestizo.”

He also warned mayors against getting involved in the narcotics trade, saying he would suspend those who would not be able to control the proliferation of drugs in their jurisdictions.

Speaking to policemen in Ozamiz City on Thursday, Mr. Duterte renewed his promise to support them in the campaign against drugs by protecting them against prosecution.

“If you in the police or the military get into trouble in the performance of your duty, I will never allow you to be jailed,” he said.

Mr. Duterte, however, said officers facing charges stemming from the performance of their duty should go through the process.

 

‘Tell me the truth’

“There will be investigation, trial and conviction. But I will grant you absolute pardon, restore [your] full political rights. I would say you should be promoted to the next higher rank,” he said.

But he warned policemen not to lie to him.  “Just tell me the truth,” he said.

In a speech to policemen in Ozamiz City on Thursday, Dela Rosa said the Bulacan operations could be seen as unusual if the suspects who had been arrested were also killed.

At least 107 drug suspects were arrested during the raids across the province.

“Wonder about it if all were killed, but many were arrested and they are alive,” Dela Rosa said.

Despite the sudden intensification of the campaign, he said the PNP “still needed to step up” the drive.

“The problem is still there,” he said.

Difficult to quantify

The exact number of people killed in the war on drugs is difficult to quantify, with no independent statistics available and police providing comprehensive data only for deaths during antidrug operations, where official accounts typically say suspects resisted arrest.

From the start of the crackdown in July last year to the end of July this year, police said more than 3,000 people were killed in their operations.

Police said about 2,100 deaths among some 13,500 murders over the same period were related to drugs, attributed to turf wars, informants being silenced, or vigilantes killing drug users.

Sixty-five police officers have been killed on the job during this period. —WITH REPORTS FROM AIE BALAGTAS SEE AND ALLAN NAWAL

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TAGS: drug killings, Manila, Quezon City Police District, shabu, war on drugs
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