Sat, May 18, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Dela Rosa welcomes investigation

‘BRING IT ON’:The former Philippine National Police chief said police acted in self-defense in the killings of more than 5,000 suspects in a campaign against drugs

Reuters, MANILA

The top enforcer of a brutal campaign against drugs in the Philippines yesterday dared prosecutors to go after him for the deaths of thousands of people, after activists warned that his election to the Philippine Senate could insulate him from legal action.

Ronald dela Rosa, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s top lieutenant in a crackdown that has alarmed the international community, shrugged off calls for him to be investigated for what human rights groups have said were systematic police cover-ups, falsified reports and summary executions.

The former chief of the Philippine National Police, nicknamed “Bato” (rock), was endorsed by Duterte in an election on Monday in which he is all but certain to win a seat in the powerful Senate.

“Bring it on, bring it on. Whatever they want, I will not run away,” Dela Rosa told ABS-CBN News Channel when asked about a possible probe, including by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, Netherlands.

Duterte’s allies swept the midterm polls in what was seen as a ringing public endorsement of the president’s controversial rule and the campaign against drugs that has defined it.

Dela Rosa and the government have insisted that the more than 5,000 suspected drug dealers whom police have killed in anti-narcotics operations had all put up a fight.

“We have to protect ourselves, we have to defend ourselves,” Dela Rosa said.

Many more have died — the estimates vary from thousands to more than 20,000 — in incidents that police have said could be drug-related, but were not part of their operations.

Dela Rosa is included in a crimes-against-humanity complaint lodged by a Philippine lawyer with the ICC, a court of last resort.

In February last year, the court announced that it had started a preliminary examination into the Philippines’ campaign against drugs.

Accusing the ICC of bias, Duterte a month later canceled the Philippines’ ICC membership, a move legal experts have said makes no difference, as its jurisdiction covers crimes committed during a country’s membership period.

Duterte promised when elected in 2016 to eliminate crime and drugs.

He and Dela Rosa have publicly admitted that they failed, but blame that on the scale of the methamphetamine problem rather than what critics have said is a flawed campaign designed to shock by targeting users in slums, instead of the big suppliers.

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