One death one too many: Palace shares public's concerns on killings

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 16 2017 07:35 PM

Two drug pushers, one of them a rogue cop was killed during a shoot-out in Vitas Tondo Manila. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – Malacañang on Monday said it understands the concerns of the public regarding the government’s war on drugs, and welcomed the support of the majority of Filipinos for President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-crime campaign.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella welcomed a Pulse Asia September 24-30 survey which showed 88 percent of respondents supporting the crackdown on narcotics. 

Only 2 percent of Filipinos did not support the anti-drug campaign while 9 percent were unable to say if they support or do not support the same, the survey results showed. Less than 1 percent were unable to state their position.

"This goes to show that our people appreciate the administration’s efforts to reduce the incidence of crime and make the streets safer and the communities more peaceful,” Abella said in a statement.

The Pulse Asia survey also revealed that 73 percent of respondents believe that extrajudicial killings are happening under the anti-narcotics crackdown. The survey found that 76 percent of Filipinos were worried that teenager Kian delos Santos, who was killed allegedly by Caloocan cops, may happen to them or to someone they know.

Abella said the government understands these sentiments, adding that the Philippine National Police continues to weed the organization of bad cops.

“[We] understand why many survey respondents may think so, given the massive media coverage of the Caloocan youth killings during the survey period,” he said.

“These suspicions, however, must always be validated by investigation and evidence, and that is the job of the Philippine National Police Internal Affairs Service (PNP-IAS), as well as the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), if ordered to investigate such incidents.”

Abella said “the concern of many Filipinos over unlawful killings possibly perpetrated in the anti-drug campaign” is “understandable” and shared by the government.

“As we have previously said, even one death is one too many. The President has made it absolutely clear that killing unarmed suspects who do not resist arrest is never allowed and will be punished,” he said.

Meanwhile, the same survey also showed that 58 percent of the respondents said Catholic Church leaders must help with the rehabilitation of drug addicts.

Abella said the government is open to this proposal, but he asked that church leaders be less critical of the war on drugs.

"It is unfortunate that the Church has been a staunch critic of the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign. We appeal to the Catholic Church hierarchy to encourage some of its leaders to be more cautious in their pronouncements that drive a wedge among the flock,” Abella said.

"These same leaders are at the core of the division within the Church that is proving to be an impediment to the complementary work of the church and government.”

Following a drop in his satisfaction and trust scores in a survey by Social Weather Stations last month, President Rodrigo Duterte stripped the PNP of the power to lead the government’s war on drugs, relegating the police force to a supporting role for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, which has a significantly smaller manpower and budget, in narcotics-related investigation cases. 

The President hoped the move would appeas his critics, particularly the Church and human rights groups, but he warned of “grave consequences” of stripping the PNP of the power to lead the drug war.