War vs drugs: Cops kill nearly 300 suspects in 24 days

MANILA, Philippines – The day before President Rodrigo Duterte was set to address Congress for his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), the official death toll of police operations against illegal drugs around the country neared 300.

According to data from the Philippine National Police (PNP), at least 293 suspects were killed from July 1 to 24, 2016 in its “invigorated” campaign against illegal drugs. The data, from the National Operation Center (NOC), includes tallies from “Oplan Tukhang” and other anti-illegal drugs operations.

A drive against illegal drugs, crime, and corruption, was among Duterte’s key promises during the 2016 elections. It’s the PNP, under its new chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, that's leading this campaign.

Tukhang,” a brainchild of Dela Rosa during his stint as Davao City police chief, involves police knocking on the doors of suspected drug users and pushers and asking them to stop.

The nationwide implementation of “Tukhang” has resulted in police visiting 68,947 houses as of July 24. According to the PNP, 129,753 suspects have voluntarily surrendered since Dela Rosa officially took over the PNP.

Police have also arrested 3,749 suspects with links to illegal drugs.

But the 293 death toll only includes those killed in police operations and excludes those slain in apparent extrajudicial killings around the country. Alongside the PNP’s campaign against illegal drugs is the apparent rise in vigilante killings.

Suspected drug users and pushers are often executed, gagged, and left on the streets with cardboard signs “admitting” their guilt.

While some sectors have praised the Duterte and the PNP for its drive against illegal drugs, the rise in apparent vigilante killings has also earned criticism. Vice President Leni Robredo, a member of Duterte’s Cabinet, has expressed at least twice her concern over the apparent rise in violence and extrajudicial killings around the country.

Dela Rosa has insisted that he is against taking measures outside of the law and has vowed to investigate the apparent string of vigilante deaths and cases of supposed summary killings by his own men and women.

Legislators – both from the Senate and the House of Representatives – are set to launch probes into alleged cases of summary executions and extrajudicial killings in police operations.

The executive branch, through Solicitor General Jose Calida, has vowed to protect police from legislative probes which he insist are being launched “in aide of media mileage.”

The police have up to 6 months to stop – or at least "suppress" – illegal drugs in the country. – Rappler.com