MANILA - The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday cast doubt on the timing of a media report about the so-called "Davao Boys," an alleged secretive police unit behind dozens of killings of drug suspects.
The 10-man squad, whose members were from or near President Rodrigo Duterte's hometown, had led majority of the anti-drug operations in the police district 6 in Quezon City, international news agency Reuters said.
Station 6 officers, who man the Batasan and Payatas areas, killed 108 people in anti-drug operations from July 2016 through June 2017, accounting for 39 percent of Quezon City's body count, Reuters said.
The Reuters report was released about a week after President Rodrigo Duterte allowed policemen to join the anti-narcotics campaign, from which he had barred them for 2 months amid allegations of abuse, PNP chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa noted.
"Isipin mo, kung kailan bumalik [sa campaign] saka naman inilabas iyan... Para bang inabangan.," he said in an inteview with ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda."
"Whatever actions ang gagawin ng gobyerno para sa war on drugs, mayroon silang nakaabang na issue," he added.
(Think about it, the report was only released after our return to the drug war. It's as if they waited for it. Whatever actions our government does for the war on drugs, there have an issue.)
Dela Rosa, who also hails from Davao, said station 6 had the most serious drug problem so he personally tapped a "hardworking, sincere and fearless" former colleague, Lito Patay, to handpick and lead the Davao Boys.
"Kahit na Col. Patay ang kaniyang apelyido, wala akong instruction na pumatay nang pumatay ng lahat ng mga drug personality diyan. 'Patay' lang ang apelyido niya," he said.
(Even if his name is Col. Patay, which translates to "dead" or "to kill", I did not give him any instruction to kill all our drug personalities there. That's just his surname.)
Dele Rosa earlier said that deaths were inevitable where the drug trade was rampant.
"So what's the problem? The worst drug problem is there in station 6, so if you hit the problem head on, you face the problem head on then, there would always result in casualties," he was quoted as saying in a Reuters report.
Patay has since been reassigned to another province to make him eligible for promotion, reflecting his success in convincing drug suspects in Quezon City to surrender to the authorities, Dela Rosa added.
Duterte has repeatedly denied he ordered the killings of criminals and drug dealers during his 22 years as Davao mayor, or his 17 months as president.
PNP data shows some 3,900 people have been killed in operations in which police say armed suspects violently resisted arrest. Duterte's opponents and activists dispute that, saying executions and cover-ups are commonplace, which police deny.