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Weekend drug toll: 18 die, 952 surrender

San Juan police undergo drug testing yesterday. MICHAEL VARCAS

MANILA, Philippines – Bodies kept piling up as 18 more suspected drug pushers were killed separately over the weekend.

Fear of getting killed prompted at least 952 confessed drug users and pushers to surrender across the country in the past two days.

Five suspects were killed in Quiapo and another was shot by lawmen in Tondo, Manila yesterday.

A former policeman and a suspected drug pusher were also killed by lawmen in Caloocan.

Six other suspects were killed in Quezon province and another in San Pedro, Laguna.

Policemen in Davao City, hometown of President Duterte, killed three more suspects.

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The latest killings brought to 30 the number of drug suspects killed after the inauguration of Duterte on June 30.

Manila Police District (MPD) operatives figured in a firefight with a group of armed men along Arlegui Street. Five of the suspects were killed in the shootout with policemen.

Police said they were following up the case of a suspected drug pusher who was wounded during a gunfight with policemen on Globo de Oro Street last Friday.

The unidentified suspect reportedly sought refuge with a group of known drug pushers in the area.

During the follow-up operation, the lawmen encountered the group in a vacant lot at the corner of Duque de Alba and Castillejos Streets, triggering the firefight.

Two of the slain suspects were identified as Muhammad Amierel Jr. and Bonabelle Bonifacio.

In Tondo, Gilbert Pondario was killed while trying to shoot it out with the lawmen during an anti-illegal drug operation.

MPD Station 1 commander Supt. Redentor Ulsano said Pondario drew his gun on the approaching lawmen raiding a suspected drug den in Maynila Compound in Barangay 101, Road 10.

In Caloocan City, Allen Jaquines, a former Malabon City policeman, and Elmer Nicdao were shot down by lawmen during a running gun battle in a squatter colony in Bagong Silang.

Caloocan police chief Sr. Supt. Bartolome Bautista said the lawmen were on a stakeout on a suspected drug den when the two suspects emerged and fired at them.

A running gun battle ensued and the two suspects were later cornered.

Meanwhile, the regional police in Southern Tagalog reported seven suspected drug pushers were killed in separate police operations in Quezon and Laguna.

Quezon police director Senior Supt. Eugenio Paguirigan said simultaneous anti-drug operations were launched in the towns of Gumaca, Tayabas, Lucban, San Antonio and Dolores.

Paguirigan said all the suspects tried to shoot it out with the arresting lawmen.

The slain suspects were identified as Christian Calvelo in Gumaca; Marvin Mabuting Cuadra in Tayabas, Victorio Abutal in Lucban; Constancio Forbes and Orlan Orias Untalan in San Antonio, and Arnel Gapascan in Dolores.

In Laguna, Ronnie Berroya died while being treated for a gunshot wound he sustained when he tried to shoot it out with lawmen during a drug sting operation in Barangay Sto. Niño, San Pedro early yesterday.

Chilling effect

The increasing number of drug offenders getting killed in police operations forced almost a thousand self-confessed drug pushers and users to surrender to the authorities.

Some 400 people turned themselves in in La Union and 200 more in Ilagan City, Isabela.

Seven suspects surrendered in Benguet, three in Sorsogon and a total of 152 in Leyte, Samar and Biliran provinces of Region VIII.

In Davao City, 27 suspects were arrested and 131 others surrendered.

In Quezon City, 59 suspects surrendered while 13 were arrested in Camarines Norte.

Most of them had expressed fears that they might end up dead if they did not give up illegal drugs.

On the day Duterte was sworn into office last week, he called on Filipinos to kill criminals and drug offenders.

Duterte even said funeral parlors would become increasingly profitable during his term as president.

“If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful,” Duterte told a crowd in Tondo hours after his inauguration.

Duterte virtually handed the Philippine National Police (PNP) the full power to hunt down criminals, particularly drug offenders.

PNP chief Director General Ronald de la Rosa said the use and sale of illegal drugs is rampant particularly in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Visayas region and in Mindanao.

“We have drug problem in almost all the regions,” he said.

According to Dela Rosa, Metro Manila, Central Luzon and the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) region, Western, Central and Eastern Visayas regions are among the “focused” areas in the campaign against illegal drugs.

De la Rosa ordered police regional commanders to reduce the illegal drugs problem in their areas by 50 percent in the next three months.

At the same time, Dela Rosa ordered police authorities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the Zamboanga peninsula and Northern Mindanao to intensify their anti-illegal drugs campaign.

He said at least one illegal drug syndicate is based in Northern Mindanao.

De la Rosa said he would personally monitor all police operations in the regions.

Regional police directors will have to personally check on the operations of their respective provincial and city police directors against illegal drugs, he said.

“If the regional directors assess that their commanders could not accomplish the target, then they know what to do,” De la Rosa said. “Otherwise, sad to say for the regional directors, if you fail to hit the target after three months, I will also relieve you. Because after the six months, I will be facing the President on this matter.”

De la Rosa stressed the President is serious in the campaign against illegal drugs.

“This is a serious campaign and we have a target to accomplish, so everybody must do their part,” he said.

On the other hand, the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) has started investigating the killings of suspected drug dealers in alleged shootouts with policemen since May 10.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has formed a national task force to investigate reports of summary executions of suspected criminals getting killed by lawmen.

“The task force will monitor all cases that may involve circumstances of possible extra-judicial killings, not limited to the drug-related police operations,” CHR Chairman Chito Gascon said.

“We are aware of the ongoing fact-finding being currently undertaken for cases in Pampanga, Bulacan, Cebu, and Metro Manila,” he added.

The PNP said 29 suspected drug pushers were killed during police operations from May 9 to June 15, and 25 others were also shot dead from June 16 to 20, bringing to 54 the death toll of suspects in the illegal drug trade as of June 20.

The PNP has yet to release information about the number of deaths from June 21 until yesterday, though media reports indicated that several men were killed during police operations against illegal drugs. – Rey Galupo, Ed Amoroso, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Helen Flores, Edith Regalado, Michelle Zoleta, Francis Elevado, Romina Cabrera, Raymund Catindig, Celso Amo, Artemio Dumlao, Jun Elias, Miriam Desacada

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