25 killed, over 500 nabbed in five-day police ops
MANILA - The Philippine National Police (PNP) announced Thursday that 25 people were killed and 552 others were arrested in just four days of anti-narcotics operations across the country.
In a press briefing, PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor said the drug-related arrests and killings were recorded from June 16 to 20.
Most of the slain drug suspects and 206 of the arrested personalities were from Calabarzon, according to figures from the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM).
Before this, 40 drug suspects were killed and 3,700 others were arrested from May 10 to June 15, 2016.
Mayor said the intensified drug crackdown is largely due to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte's call to curb criminality and the illegal drug trade within three to six months.
"Kung nakita natin, the incoming President himself, ang kanyang priority program is against illegal drugs. And because of this focus sa program, the frontline is the Philippine National Police kaya ito ang masigasig na kampanya ng ating kapulisan," he explained.
Duterte has vowed to issue "shoot to kill" orders for authorities and has promised rewards for the capture of suspects, "dead or alive".
Human rights advocates, Catholic Church and anti-crime watchdogs, however, have expressed alarm over the rising number of drug suspects getting shot by authorities because they supposedly resisted arrest.
In a pastoral appeal, Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President and Archbishop of Lingayen/Dagupan Soc Villegas reminded lawmen Monday that one can "shoot to kill" solely on the ground of legitimate self-defense or the defense of others.
Villegas also told law enforcers that it is "never morally permissible" to receive reward money for killing another person.
CBCP to lawmen: Shun bounties, shoot-to-kill policy
An anti-crime watchdog on Thursday also questioned the rising number of drug-related arrests and killings, saying some police officers may be going overboard and not targeting the "big fish".
"Masyadong substantial, hindi believable," Arsenio "Boy" Evangelista, spokesperson of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, said in a radio dzMM interview. "Parang sumobra, naging moro-moro, sarsuwela."
Evangelista also warned that the killings could actually impede the government's efforts against narcotics by eliminating potential sources of information.
READ: All for show? VACC raises questions about rise in drug arrests, slays
Several officials of the United Nations also warned Duterte that bounties and a zero-tolerance approach to crime could lead to chaos. -- With a report from Henry Atuelan, DZMM
READ: UN chief slams Duterte 'endorsement' of killings