Duterte gov't tally: Drug war deaths top 5,500 before SONA 2019

MANILA, Phlippines – Three years into the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, the government's anti-illegal drug campaign has claimed over 5,500 lives, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

The PDEA’s latest count, from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2019, showed that lives of 5,526 people were claimed in the course of 134,583 anti-drug operations by the government, while 193,086 drug personalities were arrested in that period. Majority of the operations were carried out by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The PDEA's findings are part of #RealNumbersPH, the government's effort to counter what it called a "false narrative" on the war on drugs.

Outside the PDEA's count, rights groups estimate the drug war to have claimed as much as 27,000 lives, including the victims of vigilante-style killings. (READ: PH drug war killings reach 'threshold of crimes against humanity' – report)

PDEA's latest data showed a continuous climb in the number of deaths, with an additional 476 kills since the end of 2018. Prior to this, the government recorded 5,050 suspects killed in anti-drug operations as of November 30, 2018. (READ: The Impunity Series)

Along with the high death toll, the government also reported 7,054 "high value targets" and 681 government workers were arrested in anti-drug operations. Among the government workers were 323 government employees, 282 elected officials, and 76 uniformed personnel.

Aside from this, the Philippine National Police said 2,367 cops have been dismissed from service as part of its internal cleansing program.

Halfway mark: In the previous SONA, Duterte vowed his drug war would not be sidelined as he dismissed international criticism over his campaign. The President vowed his anti-drug campaign would be "as chilling as on the day it began."

Duterte amped up his actions by releasing a list tagging politicians of supposedly being involved in illegal drug operations just weeks before the 2019 midterm elections held last May.

Meanwhile, glaring gaps in the government's anti-drug campaign have prompted certain sectors to question the operation before the Supreme Court. The petitioners were asking the High Court to declare as unconstitutional the anti-drugs campaign.

In April 2019, the High Court ordered the release of thousands of drug war documents, despite efforts to block it by the Solicitor General.

Recently, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in July 2019 adopted a resolution to look into drug war killings in the Philippines. It tasked the UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet to write a comprehensive report on the situation in the Philippines and present this to the council. (READ: U.N. rights chief: Deaths in PH anti-drug operations a ‘most serious concern’)

Malacañang, though, has so far shown no signs it would cooperate with the completion of the comprehesive report, instead calling it an "insult" to Filipinos. (READ: On U.N. resolution vs drug war killings: What if Duterte blocks review?

Not yet over: Despite this, the government has claimed the drug war is far from over with officials tagging it as a "protective measure" for "law-abiding citizens" against supposed errant drug users.

It claimed 13,753 of the 42,045 total barangays have been cleared since June 2019. This leaves 19,215 that have yet to be "cleared."

This is an additional 3,754 barangays cleared since the start of the year. Prior to this, PDEA reported 9,999 barangays were cleared as of December 31, 2018. – Rappler.com

For highlights of President Duterte’s 4th SONA, check out our live blog.

Rappler takes a deeper look at the first half of Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency – its highs and lows, its achievements and shortcomings: 
Duterte Year 3: The Halfway Mark 

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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