MANILA – A Palace official on Monday branded as "hearsay" a report of a foreign news agency that bodies of drug war victims were being dumped in Manila Bay.
Qatar-based news network Al Jazeera on Friday published a report quoting a fisherman as saying that he was ordered by police officers to dump bodies of suspected drug personalities in Manila Bay.
Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the report should have presented more evidence to back up the allegation. "As far as we are concerned, those are mere allegations. If there [is] no evidence to back that up, then that remains as hearsay," Guevarra said in a news conference.
Detained Senator Leila de Lima, one of the top opposition personalities in the country, has called for a Senate investigation into the alleged practice, which she dubbed "bangkay sa bangka."
If the claim of the fisherman in the report is indeed true, De Lima said it would fulfill President Duterte’s vow to dump bodies of drug suspects in Manila Bay to “fatten all the fish there."
"No wonder the number of deaths in the War on Drugs has not been updated or altogether been kept from the public. Extrajudicial killings are still happening in the streets, but this time, mass murder by rogue police officers and hired assailants is done through another strategy to hide the real magnitude of EJKs,” De Lima said in a Saturday dispatch from Camp Crame, where she is currently detained.
"This also signals a new policy of the police: getting rid of bodies to get away with murder," she added.
The Duterte administration has many times defended its drug war against critics, saying reported figures- from 7,000 to 9,000- were overblown.
Latest Philippine National Police (PNP) data show that a total of 3,200 drug personalities were killed in anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to June 20, 2017, or 9 killed daily in presumed legitimate anti-drug operations in the first year of the Duterte administration.
The PNP has also determined that out of the 12,833 homicide cases from July 1, 2016 to June 16, 2017, 2,098 deaths were drug-related and 2,535 non-drug related. A total of 8,200 homicide cases were under investigation "with motives to be determined," the PNP said.