MANILA, Philippines – The death rate has gone down since the return of Oplan Tokhang, also called Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded, according to the Interior Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III and Philippine National Police human rights affairs chief Dennis Siervo.
“We have noted a sharp decrease in the number of deaths during police operations," Densing said in a press conference held Monday, May 15.
According to Densing, one drug suspect died in every 20 police operations in Oplan Double Barrel last year. When it was "reloaded" only one suspect lost his life in every 50 operations.
Oplan Double Barrel was temporarily halted on January 31 this year after the controversial killing of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo in Camp Crame, the Philippine National Police national headquarters.
It was reinstated on March 7 with police chief Ronald dela Rosa promising that it will be "less bloody if not bloodless."
They said the police recorded 1,665 deaths (5.3%) out of 31,200 operations from July to September 2016; and 183 deaths (2%) out of 9,353 anti-illegal drug operations from March 6 to May 5, 2017.
They did not count, however, drug-related killings not executed by the police. They claimed that the tally of the local media counted killings from "fights" and "love triangles" and thus should not be considered "extrajudicial killings".
Densing urged the media and human rights groups to follow the formal definition of extrajudicial killings are killings beyond law that are only attributed to the government. (Read: CHR refutes Cayetano: We did not change definition of EJKs)
But the deaths outside police operations cannot be dismissed easily because there have been multiple allegations saying that police are behind a number of killings.
A 3-month Rappler investigation found witnesses naming the policeman behind the killings of their neighbors and relatives. (Read: Where the war began)
Echoing President Rodrigo Duterte's sentiment, Siervo defended deaths in police operations, saying that the police kill drug suspects "legally" and "in the line of duty."
According to him, their duty is to defend not just themselves "but also the members of the community [the drug suspect resides with]."
Siervo said they do not intend on killing them. "It just so happened that they fought back and they also want [the police] killed then there is an exchange of fire resulting to the death of the suspect."
He added that policemen are supposed to inform drug suspects of their rights as mandated by the PNP Miranda warning and Anti-Torture warning guidelines.
“[The] PNP will continue to respect, protect, and uphold human rights. We likewise appeal to the public to help us in our goal of establishing a drug-free society,” Siervo said. - Rappler.com