Manila: The Philippines police chief on Monday warned that his officers were prepared to kill anyone, even rich and influential politicians, as they wage President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly war on drugs.
Since Duterte took office just over two months ago, the government said more than 2,400 people have been killed in his anti-crime crusade, an increasingly controversial campaign that has drawn UN condemnation.
Police said they themselves killed 1,011 drug suspects with 1,391 others listed as “deaths under investigation”. “If they fight back… they will die. Rest assured, we do not discriminate,” national police chief Ronald De la Rosa said today.
“All of them, the rich, the poor, police, civilians… even if you are a politician, you will die if you are into drugs and you fight back,” he warned. The dominant Catholic church, human rights groups and even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have criticised Duterte for his apparent support of extrajudicial killings.
Critics have also charged that the police are mainly killing poor people in the slums, while wealthy and influential suspects have been spared. Duterte was elected by a landslide in May after vowing to end crime in six months by killing tens of thousands of criminals.
De la Rosa, who has been Duterte’s main enforcer in the campaign, stressed that police would be more merciless towards corrupt policemen involved in illegal drugs.
“We even prefer to kill our fellows who have betrayed our cause… they have turned traitor,” he added. Duterte and other officials have insisted that police only kill suspects in self-defence, and have said others were murdered by crime gangs trying to silence them.
However, Duterte has also openly called for the killing of drug suspects, even urging their neighbours to murder them. Concern over Duterte’s anti-crime crackdown increased further after he declared a “state of lawlessness” following a bombing in his hometown of Davao last Friday that left 14 dead and about 70 injured.
The declaration allows the president to use the military in law enforcement operations once limited to the police. Opposition legislators have said this action was unnecessary and could result in further breaches of human rights.
De la Rosa, playing down such concerns, said: “Rest assured that we will implement this without violating human rights.”