War on drugs: ABS-CBN research shows over 7,000 individuals killed in past 6 years

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 01 2022 04:50 PM

Workers label the body bag that will contain the exhumed remains of alleged drug war victims at the Manila North Cemetery on September 17, 2021. Several remains were exhumed today after the leases on their graves expired. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Workers label the body bag that will contain the exhumed remains of alleged drug war victims at the Manila North Cemetery on September 17, 2021. Several remains were exhumed today after the leases on their graves expired. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News


MANILA — A total of 7,009 drug-related deaths were reported in the past 6 years of the Duterte administration during the execution of its drug war, with Bulacan topping all the areas nationwide in terms of death count, data analyzed by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group showed.

ABS-CBN's drug deaths monitoring is higher than the death toll reported by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Tuesday. PDEA pegged the drug war death count at 6,241.

PDEA's figure only involved deaths during anti-drug operations between July 1, 2016 and March 31, 2022.

The ABS-CBN research team, however, made use of data from national and local news organizations and Philippine National Police and PDEA press releases from May 10, 2016, a day after the national elections, to May 20, 2022. 

The 7,009 was broken down as follows: 

  •  4,780 (68.20 percent) were killed in operations conducted by law-enforcement agencies 
  •  1,949 (27.81 percent) were killed by unidentified suspects 
  •  280 (3.99 percent) were bodies dumped in public places 

"The number of drug-related deaths reported was highest during the first year of the Duterte administration, or from July 2016 to June 2017. ABS-CBN News monitored 3,581 drug-related fatalities during this period," the researchers said.

"This translates to an average of nearly 300 alleged drug suspects killed per month over the 12-month period," they noted.

BULACAN TOPS AREAS IN PH WITH MOST DRUG DEATHS

Meanwhile, Bulacan dominated all the provinces in the country in terms of drug killings with 1,132 drug suspects killed or 16.15 percent of the total. This means nearly 2 in 10 deaths in the administration's drug fight came from this province north of Manila.

Cebu province came second with the most number of drug-related deaths with 522 or 7.45 percent of the total, followed by the City of Manila with 510 or 7.28 percent of the total. 

Metro Manila, on the other hand, is the top region nationwide with the most number of drug-related deaths after researchers recorded 2,086 killings. This is nearly a third of the total. 

Central Luzon and Calabarzon came second and third with 1,657 and 939 individuals killed respectively. 

New York-based Human Rights Watch in 2018 estimated that the number of those who died in Duterte's drug war is more than 12,000, with many victims coming from poor families. 

The non-profit organization said their figure included around 4,000 individuals killed during operations and others who were summarily executed. 

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On Tuesday, PDEA Director-General Wilkins Villanueva said the drug war focused also on rehabilitation and was not just about killing drug peddlers.

"The war on drugs is unfoundedly blamed for unlawful deaths. These... losses of lives were the result of violent actions of drug pushers toward law enforcers during lawful operations," Villanueva said.

Villanueva touted the Duterte administration's reformation programs for drug addicts, saying almost 694,000 have "undergone appropriate interventions and reformation programs" in their villages.

The Commission on Human Rights' (CHR) drug report released earlier this month noted that the government failed to uphold human rights during the drug war, and authorities encouraged a "culture of impunity" for the killings.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) last year authorized a full inquiry into the government's drug war due to possible crimes against humanity. But this was suspended in November as the court assesses the government's deferral request. 

— With reports from the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group