US troubled by increasing extrajudicial killings in Philippines

Reuters

Posted at Apr 21 2017 10:03 AM

Members of the Scene of the Crime Operatives check an unidentified body with his head wrapped with packaging tape and hands tied with steel wire that was found at a dark portion of Taksay St., Barangay 28 in Caloocan City around 3 a.m. on Easter Sunday. The body was allegedly dumped and shot several times according to witnesses. Vincent Go, ABS-CBN News

WASHINGTON - The United States said on Thursday it was troubled by the growing number of extrajudicial killings in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs and called on Manila to stick to its commitment to investigate them. 

Close to 9,000 people, mostly drug users and small-time dealers, have been killed since Duterte took office almost 10 months ago and promised an unrelenting campaign to rid the Philippines of illicit narcotics.

Police say about a third of the victims were shot by officers in self-defense. Human rights groups believe many of the remaining two thirds were killed by paid assassins cooperating with the police or by police themselves, disguised as vigilantes. The government and police reject that.

Patrick Murphy, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Southeast Asia, said the United States shared Manila's objective of eliminating the scourge of illicit drugs and wanted to help.

"We however do have a very sustained and deep concern when elements of the drug war are operating outside the rule of law," Murphy told reporters. "The growing number of extrajudicial killings is troubling."

Rights advocates were concerned when U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sidestepped questions about extrajudicial killings in the Philippines during his January confirmation hearing, raising the possibility that President Donald Trump might take a softer line on the issue than his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

Murphy said there was a distinction between being a nominee and the secretary of state and Tillerson was now the leader of the policy of expressing concern about the way the drug war was being waged.

"We are urging the Philippines to follow up on its commitment to investigate extrajudicial killings whether they are committed by law enforcement, or of a vigilante nature," he said.

Earlier on Thursday, Duterte's office rejected allegations by two senior police officers in a Reuters report that police received cash rewards for executing drug suspects, while the most high-profile critic of the president backed the officers' claims.

Duterte was infuriated by US expressions of concern about extrajudicial killings after he took office last year and threatened to sever the long-standing US defense alliance.

Duterte spoke positively about Trump, a fellow populist, after the US presidential election in November, although his anti-US rhetoric continued.

Luzviminda Siapo, mother of Raymart Siapo, weeps during funeral rites for her son at the Sta. Clara Church in Malabon. Siapo was abducted and killed allegedly by 14 bonnet-wearing gunmen on March 29 in Navotas City, a day after a neighbor filed a complaint against him including drug peddling. Vincent Go, ABS-CBN News