Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on illegal drugs has already killed almost 300 people since the start of July and the death toll is set to rise.
In his first state of the nation address to parliament Mr. Duterte, dubbed ‘The Punisher’, ignored the outrage over the continuing death count, declaring that drugs were drowning his country’ and had to be stopped at all costs.
‘Double your efforts. Triple them if need be,’ Mr. Duterte told police.
‘We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier and the last pusher have surrendered or been put behind bars … or below ground if you wish,’ he said.
Human rights groups obtained police figures that showed Mr Duterte’s violent crackdown has claimed the lives of 293 suspected users and pushers in police operations between July 1 and July 24.
This figure does not include drug dealers killed by vigilante groups and those working outside the law.
Mr. Duterte made it clear he would pardon police if they were charged with human rights violations for carrying out his merciless orders.
Nearly 60,000 Filipino drug addicts surrendered themselves earlier this month to the government after President Duterte urged citizens to ‘go ahead and kill’ drug dealers and users.
Mr. Duterte won elections in May and immediately promised a law-and-order crackdown on drugs.
‘These sons of w****s are destroying our children. I warn you, don’t go into that, even if you’re a policeman, because I will really kill you,’ the president told an audience during a speech in the country’s capital, Manila.
Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar said close to 60,000 drug dependents have surrendered to authorities since the administration began its intensified campaign against drugs.
Police have confirmed killing more than 110 drug suspects since the president came to power, while local news reports suggest that figure is around 200.
At least 43,000 alleged drug traffickers have been ‘neutralised’ and 300kg of shabu, a highly addictive methamphetamine, has been confiscated, according to local reports.
President Duterte has warned of widespread bloodshed as part of the government’s war on drugs.
He vowed on one occasion during the election campaign that 100,000 people would die, and so many bodies would be dumped in Manila Bay that the fish there would grow fat from feeding on them, according to the South China Morning Post.
Duterte has also told police he would protect them from legal consequences if they killed drug dealers, the Post reported.
Last week, gruesome images showing slain drug dealers with ‘I’m a pusher’ signs covering their chests emerged.
The grim scenes of alleged drug dealers found shot dead in Manila last week are growing increasingly common as police wage a bloody war on narcotics.
The government’s top lawyer called for police to kill more suspected drug criminals, as he defended president Duterte’s brutal war on crime against mounting criticism.
As the official death toll has mounted, and other bodies not confirmed killed by police have been found with placards declaring them drug traffickers, human rights lawyers have expressed deep concerns about the war on crime spiralling out of control.
In response to the criticism, Solicitor General Jose Calida held a press conference on Monday at national police headquarters to insist on the legality of the police killings and to encourage more deaths of people suspected of being involved in the drug trade.
‘To me, that is not enough,’ Calida said of the killings so far.
In one of the deadliest single incidents, police reported killing eight ‘drug personalities’ during a pre-dawn raid on Saturday in a small southern town.
One of the nation’s top human rights lawyers, Jose Manuel Diokno, warned last week that Duterte had ‘spawned a nuclear explosion of violence that is spiralling out of control and creating a nation without judges’.
Former senator Rene Saguisag, a prominent human rights lawyer during the regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, also criticised Duterte’s statements naming and shaming alleged drug lords and police officers ahead of a formal investigation.
‘Do we still probe and have a trial as part of due process? Useless, it seems to me,’ Saguisag wrote in an online column last week.
Some opposition lawmakers have also called for a congressional investigation into the spate of killings.
Calida, a Duterte appointee, said he would protect police from or during congressional probes, while emphasising it was up to critics to prove allegations of abuse rather than base inquiries on speculation.
‘I am here to encourage the (police) not to be afraid of any congressional or senate investigations. We will defend them … I am the defender of the (police),’ he said.