MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday again defended his bloody war on drugs, saying the lives of criminals killed in his campaign do not matter.
“Walay problema ng inyong kinabuhi na (walang problema ang inyong buhay) ma-wasted because you are a criminal anyway and you destroy the life of a community and country eventually,” Duterte said in a speech in Cebu.
“There’s a whale of a difference between killing an innocent person and killing a criminal.”
Duterte said he would rather have criminals killed instead of seeing the Philippines "deprived of its greatest assets, and that is our daughters and sons."
"What about the four million people reduced to slavery?" Duterte said, referring to the number of Filipinos he says are suffering from drug addiction.
Since Duterte assumed power in July 2016, over 7,000 people have been killed in the drug war, but the government is only taking responsibility for about 2,500 of these deaths. It says these were the results of legitimate police operations where most of the slain suspects allegedly shot it out with authorities.
The rest of the deaths were categorized as “under investigation” where most of the assailants were mostly “vigilantes."
Duterte issued this statement on the day international non-government organization Human Rights Watch released its report revealing alleged abuse of power by policemen in carrying out the president’s campaign against drugs.
Citing numerous testimonies from the relatives of slain suspects and other witnesses, the HRW report said there seemed to be police complicity in the killings supposedly carried out by the vigilantes.
In some of the fatal police operations, there were also indications that the killings were premeditated, debunking the usual police claim that the killing was in self-defense.
There were also cases wherein policemen would plant pieces of evidence, such as firearms, spent ammunition or illegal drugs, on the body of a slain suspect, to justify the killing.
Some witness accounts also bolster the theory that not all people killed in Duterte’s drug war were involved in drugs. In one of the cases HRW examined, a person was killed because he just happened to have a similar-sounding nickname with a local drug dealer.
HRW examined 24 incidents, from as early as June 8, 2016 up to January 14, 2017, which resulted in 32 deaths. In many of these cases, the relatives of some of the victims admitted that their slain loved ones were once involved in either drug abuse or peddling.
However, the relatives said the victims were killed in cold blood, defenseless and begging for their lives.