Sun, Apr 23, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Officers describe kill rewards, staged crime scenes in Duterte’s drug war

Two police officers gave damning accounts of payments for killings, municipal coordination and cover-ups in the Philippine president’s war on drugs

By Manuel Mogato and Clare Baldwin  /  Reuters, MANILA

Illustration: Constance Chou

The Philippine police have received cash payments for executing drug suspects, planted evidence at crime scenes and carried out most of the killings they have long blamed on vigilantes, two senior officers who are critical of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” said.

In the most detailed insider accounts yet of the drug war’s secret mechanics, the two senior officials challenged the government’s explanations of the killings in interviews with Reuters.

Nearly 9,000 people, many small-time users and dealers, have been killed since Duterte took office on June 30 last year. Police say about a third of the victims were shot by officers in self-defense during legitimate anti-drug operations. Human rights monitors believe many of the remaining two-thirds were killed by paid assassins operating with police backing or by police disguised as vigilantes — a charge the police deny.

The two senior officers, one a retired police intelligence officer and the other an active-duty commander, claimed the killings are orchestrated by the police, including most of those carried out by vigilantes. They spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“It is the Philippine National Police doing it,” the retired intelligence officer said. “This killing machine must be buried six feet under the ground.”

He said he was angry about the impact of the killings on police discipline and wanted “to put Duterte on the defensive.”

Reuters was unable to independently verify if the police are behind vigilante killings.

The president’s office and the Philippine police did not respond to questions.

‘ONLY THE POOR’

The intelligence officer has authored an unpublished 26-page report on the conduct of the drug war in an effort to organize opposition to Duterte’s campaign.

The report, titled The State-Sponsored Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines, provides granular detail on the campaign’s alleged methods, masterminds and perpetrators. The document has been shared with leaders of the Catholic Church in the Philippines and with the government-funded Commission on Human Rights.

Some of the report’s accusations against individuals could not be confirmed by Reuters; the news agency is therefore not publishing the full document.

However, many of its findings support and expand upon previous investigations of the drug war by Reuters and independent human rights monitors.

The report claims that police are paid to kill not just drug suspects, but also — for 10,000 pesos (US$201) a head — rapists, pickpockets, swindlers, gang members, alcoholics and other “troublemakers.”

It also claims that civilian members of the so-called “Davao Death Squad,” which rights activists allege killed hundreds of people in Duterte’s hometown of Davao, were drafted to “augment and assist” the police’s nationwide anti-drug operation.

The report does not provide documentary evidence for its accusations, which the intelligence officer said were based on accounts from 17 serving or former policemen, including the interviewed commander.

The police commander said he agreed to talk because he was upset that authorities are targeting only petty drug suspects.

“Why aren’t they killing the suppliers?” he asked. “Only the poor are dying.”

The second half of the report is largely political in nature, asserting that Duterte has close ties to communist forces in the Philippines.

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