'No policy to kill drug suspects'
MANILA – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald dela Rosa on Tuesday said there is no declared policy from President Rodrigo Duterte to kill drug suspects.
Dela Rosa stressed that President Duterte's harsh words against drug lords and pushers and his desire to ''kill'' them are part of the ''psychological war" against illegal drugs.
''There is none. We always follow the rule of law,'' Dela Rosa said.
''Kung sinabi ni president iyan, ito ay para takutin ang ating mga drug personalities. Itong labanan ng droga, it is a psychological [war]."
(If he said those things, he merely wanted to sow fear among drug pushers. This is a psychological war.)
Human rights advocates and administration critics are concerned over the rising number of drug-related deaths in connection with Duterte's war on drugs.
Doubts have been cast over the manner by which policemen are carrying out their anti-drug operations, with some suspecting that some cops themselves are involved in the illegal activity.
Senator Francis Escudero said in a public hearing that the Philippines is now getting a bad reputation abroad because of the killings, with international news reports blaming Duterte for supposedly tolerating extra-judicial killings.
Based on police data, 756 drug suspects have been killed in police operations. Dela Rosa said these suspects were killed after ''presumably'' resisting arrest.
Dela Rosa said policemen only shoot back if their lives are under threat.
At least 1,160 people, on the other hand, were killed outside of police operations. Dela Rosa noted not all of these killings are drug-related.
For killings of this nature, Dela Rosa said the policemen do not look the other way around.
''No, in fact we're investigating those cases,'' he said.
Meanwhile, Dela Rosa also defended the PNP's "Oplan Tokhang" (Knock and Plead), saying the police are following operational guidelines.
This, after Senator Leila de Lima asked how the police carry out the program with no search warrant in hand.
To date, at least 673,978 suspected drug pushers and users have surrendered under Oplan Tokhang, and Dela Rosa said the PNP aims to hit to 1.8 million surrenderers.