AS THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT's campaign against illegal drugs goes full swing, more and more widows and grieving parents are coming forward to protest the alleged summary execution of their kin.
“Sumurender na, bakit binaril pa?” asked Rocma Ismael, wife of Tainko Lamping, one of eight people who perished in a police operation in Matalam, North Cotabato last Saturday. “Anong tawag doon? Massacre.”
From North Cotabato to Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao, to Caloocan City, Pasay City and Manila in Luzon, few of the bereaved have denied their relatives who perished in police operations were drug peddlers or users.
DEAD DIDN'T FIGHT BACK
“Tinadyakan nila ang pinto at pinagbabaril,” said Tessa Dominguez, sister of Roberto Dominguez aka “Betong” who was killed in Caloocan City earlier this month. “Sana dinala na lang nila, hindi naman nanlaban.”
They said their kin were defenseless against policemen. And while they should have been jailed, they didn't have to die, they said.
154 gunned down in drug operations from May 10 to July 3
The Philippine National Police said 103 people have died in police operations to combat illegal drugs between May 10 and July 3, 2016.
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was elected President on May 9, but the Aquino administration was in power until June 30.
But the number of drug-related fatalities in police operations during the same period was fifty percent higher, at 154, in a separate tally by ABS-CBN's Investigative and Research Group, culled from PNP regional websites and news reports of various agencies.
311 DOWN, AND COUNTING
In all, ABS-CBN monitored 311 drug-related fatalities between May 10 and July 11, 2016.
About 72 percent--or 224 deaths--resulted from police operations, often buy-bust operations that allegedly escalated to shoot-outs with suspects.
About 17 percent--or 54--of the fatalities were gunned down by unidentified assailants, their bodies left spread to the ground.
About 11 percent--or 33--were "salvage victims", their bodies carried from the crime scene and dumped elsewhere. Signs that identified them as drug lords, drug pushers or drug users were often tacked onto their bodies.
ABS-CBN monitored 154 drug-related fatalities in a span of 49 days, between May 10 and June 28.
But in a span of just 12 days, from June 29, the eve of Mr. Duterte's inauguration, up until July 11, ABS-CBN monitored a total of 157 drug related fatalities.
Mr. Duterte himself previously voiced doubts about some drug-related killings.
Recalling the death of five people at a Pasay City concert last May, the President-elect shared his insights with business leaders in Davao City on June 21.
"I said, prepare (for) a massive revamp. Kinaumagahan marami nang nahuli, ngayon marami nang patay. Pinatay nila? 'Yun ba? Baka ang pinatay nila 'yung bata nila para hindi na pumyait (squeal)," he said.
PNP CHIEF ORDERS PROBE
President Duterte may have inspired what's resulted in mayhem, but he could also provide the key to finding a solution to the problem.
In an ambush interview inside ABS-CBN on July 7, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald dela Rosa likewise expressed doubts about some of these police operations.
"May mga reports na, itong mga taong ito ay hawak ng mga protektor na pulis, eh ngayon pinag-papatay na nila. Pinagdududahan natin ’yan," he said.
Dela Rosa said the PNP's Internal Affairs Service has begun investigating some cases, but declined to give any details.
Mr. Duterte has always encouraged policemen to go after drug traffickers, offering cash rewards and promotions. But he has also reminded law enforcers that operations must be conducted within the boundaries of the law.
He may have inspired what's resulted in mayhem, but the President could also provide the key to finding a solution to the problem.