MANILA- Human rights group Amnesty International defended Thursday their report’s findings on alleged extrajudicial killings in the country, saying the report is anchored on research of various non-government organizations and media outlets.
Amnesty International senior crisis advisor Matthew Wells urged the government on Wednesday to “start taking seriously” the findings and reports of different groups and media outlets on extrajudicial killings since findings usually point out similar conclusions.
“I think the government needs to start taking seriously that group after group, media outlet after media outlet are coming to the same conclusion that there are overwhelmingly extrajudicial executions, and that the police force has to start investigating these killings credibly,” Wells said in a phone interview on "[email protected]"
The Amnesty report said President Rodrigo Duterte had incited the police to carry out a murderous war on the poor, and warned that the International Criminal Court would need to start investigating unless Philippine authorities did not stop it soon.
"The police killings are driven by pressures from the top, including an order to 'neutralize' alleged drug offenders, as well as financial incentives. They have created an informal economy of death," the report said.
Amnesty said it investigated the deaths of 59 people, and found the majority of them were extrajudicial killings.
Wells insisted that their investigation revealed that many vigilantes were paid by police officers to do the killings.
“What we found in interviewing people in towns and cities across the Philippines is there is a consistent pattern of what we believe to be extrajudicial killings by police against alleged drug offenders,” he said.
“Police allege that people resist arrest and open fire at them but there are consistent accounts show instead that people kill unarmed men pleading for their lives,” he added.
According to Wells, they saw a pattern into the alleged extrajudicial killings where poor neighborhoods in the metro are being targeted by police operations wherein the poor are “unlawfully treated” during the course of the operation.
“Police officers are at times paid under the table for single shooting of alleged drug offenders. Police steal from the homes of people who have [been] killed. I’ve interviewed a woman who said the police stole goods she was supposed to sell on commission after the police killed her husband, stole shoes also,” he said.
Wells said he interviewed two paid vigilantes who claimed that the police run the group of paid killers. Vigilantes allegedly receive P5,000 for killing a drug user and around P10,000 to P15,000 for killing drug peddlers.
He also lamented how paid vigilantes don’t think that they are committing crimes and consider their work as help to the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
“Paid killers quite sadly, they didn’t think they were doing anything wrong. One said they were working on behalf of government to clean up trash of society,” Wells said.
As of January 31, a total of 3,024 drug-related fatalities have been recorded since May 10, data from the ABS-CBN Research and Investigative Group showed.
Of this number, 1,714 were killed during police operations while 1,110 were killed bu unidentified assailants.