MANILA - Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday slammed Malacañang for allegedly downplaying the number of killings from the country's war on drugs.
De Lima, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his drug war, stressed the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) should not treat the deaths as mere numbers since the victims have families and loved ones who are still suffering from their demise.
"Dapat isipin ng pamahalaan na sa likod ng mga bilang na ito, may mga pamilyang nawalan ng mahal sa buhay, mga magulang na nawalan ng anak at mga anak na naulila," De Lima said.
(The government must consider that behind these numbers are grieving families -- parents who lost children, and children who were orphaned).
A PCOO official rejected a statement of news outlet VERA Files that more than 20,000 people have been killed in the government's war on drugs, saying the death toll is "very much bloated."
"We admit that there have been people killed during drug operations but we disagree there have been more than 20,000 killed, which some sectors internal and external to the Philippines have been saying," PCOO Assistant Secretary Ramon Cualoping III told ANC's Early Edition.
Vera Files over the weekend called out PCOO Assistant Secretary Marie Rafael Banaag for saying there have been only 5,425 deaths under the drug war when the Supreme Court in 2018 asked the government to explain the more than 20,000 deaths in its anti-narcotics campaign.
The figure was based on the Duterte Administration's 2017 Yearend Report, Vera Files said.
De Lima, former chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, said the government should ensure these killings are solved instead of wasting its time in disputing the exact numbers of casualties from Duterte's drug war.
"Numbers are not the real issue. Under a senseless and misdirected 'war on drugs', one death is one too many. One death of an innocent child is totally unacceptable as it is reprehensible," De Lima said.
Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said deaths in the drug war has reached just over 5,000 over the last three years - a thousand less than the figure it earlier released.
The PNP said 5,526 drug suspects were killed from July 1, 2016, until June 30 this year, 1,074 less than the number it cited on June 18. The PNP had said then that 6,600 drug suspects were slain in police operations from July 1 until May 31 this year.