Palace: Duterte investigating police 'abuse' in anti-drug war

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 03 2016 03:07 PM | Updated as of Aug 03 2016 07:35 PM

A police officer processes documents of drug suspects at a warehouse for drug addicts in Tondo, Manila on July 13, 2016. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte acknowledges accusations that some suspected drug pushers were deliberately killed by policemen abusing their authority, a spokesman said Wednesday.

With the number of slain suspected drug peddlers rising by the day and questions being raised on the manner anti-drug raids are being carried out, human rights advocates are now taking Duterte to task.

But Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Duterte is already looking into allegations that some policemen have been killing innocent civilians accused of drug peddling.

''He is in touch with the hierarchy of authority and he communicates exactly where he stands. So in other words, he is ensuring that the process is duly carried out by being personally in touch with those who are in charge,'' Abella said.

''I'm sure he is looking into these matters. He has been made aware and he is looking into these matters," he added.

After winning on a platform of eradicating crime and corruption, Duterte fulfilled his promise to launch a massive campaign to end illegal drug trade in the country.

However, there have been concerns that poor people have become the main victims of Duterte's war on drugs, and the president's recent pronouncements have done nothing to calm dissenting voices.

Duterte, who ruled Davao City for two decades with an iron fist, has said he would gladly back policemen who would face charges in the performance of their duty.

He also scored human rights advocates for insisting that he respect the rights of suspected drug peddlers, saying '''human rights must not be used as an excuse to destroy the country."

The president was also criticized for describing as ''dramatic'' a viral photo of a slain pedicab driver accused of being a drug pusher.

Data gathered by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group show that there have been 771 drug-related fatalities from May 10 to August 2.

Of the total number, 472 were killed during police operations, while 227 were killed by unidentified gunmen. At least 71 were victims of summary executions.

The rising body count has caught the attention of the international community, with over 200 non-governmental organizations signing a letter stating that the killings of suspected drug pushers and users ''do not constitute acceptable drug control measures.''