Duterte gov't tally: At least 4,000 suspects killed in drug war

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs has claimed 4,000 lives since it was launched on July 1, 2016, up until just March 20, 2018, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

The PDEA tally showed that some 4,075 drug suspects have been killed in government anti-drug operations, most of which were carried out by the 180,000-strong Philippine National Police (PNP).

This is a leap of at least 107 deaths from what the lead anti-narcotics agency recorded back on December 5, 2017, or when the PNP returned to the drug war after an almost two-month hiatus.

Why this matters: Clearing the country of illegal drugs is one of the campaign promises of President Rodrigo Duterte. The PNP has so far been Duterte's biggest weapon in attempting to shoot down what the President himself calls a "plague".

The PNP has been accused, however, of killing either legitimate drug suspects who deserve a trial, or innocents who were falsely accused through apparently sketchy reporting systems. (READ: The Impunity Series)

From 2016 to 2017, the critics hit hard on the Duterte administration for killings they attributed to the President's relentless campaign. (READ: Drug war in 2017: The year of deaths and denials)

In 2017, in fact, the PNP was pulled out twice from the campaign: first in January after the killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo inside Camp Crame, then in October, after a string of controversial teen killings in Caloocan City.

PNP promised less blood: Responding to criticism, PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa signed in late January 2018 new drug war rules to prevent cops from becoming rogues while on duty then killing drug suspects outright.

These rules included encouraging the use of body cameras, and requiring the presence of human rights advocates in the popular Oplan Tokhang.

Over 3 months later, blood continues to stain police operations.

The latest government numbers show that from December 5 up to March 20, at least one drug suspect died every day.

Other drug deaths: Beyond government operations, the PDEA has likewise tallied 2,467 "drug-related" killings also from July 2016 to March 2018.

Of these cases, 1,752 are deaths under investigation or "DUIs", while 715 are already "solved".

The drug-related killings presumably do not involve law enforcement personnel as they are usually products of individual or group conflicts in the drug trade, PDEA Spokesperson Derrick Carreon told Rappler in a phone interview on Wednesday, April 4.

The achievements: Despite the killings, the Philippine government brandishes its achievements in one of the most intense anti-drug campaigns in the country's history, and they continue to enjoy the support of the majority of Filipinos.

As of March 2018, the administration has confiscated around 2,620.5 kilograms of methamphetamine or "shabu" worth P13.46 billion and has also captured alive 123,648 drug suspects, 469 of whom are government employees. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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