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Poe to cops: No contest on who kills most drug suspects

Sen. Grace Poe emphasizes the importance of proper care and nutrition for pregnant mothers and children during the launch of Quezon's "First 1,000 Days of Life" program held on Monday, Aug. 21 in Lucena City. Grace Poe/Released

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Grace Poe on Monday warned cops involved in the government’s unrelenting campaign against illegal drugs that there is no a contest to see which police district has the most drug suspects killed.

Poe’s comments came as the Duterte administration and the Philippine National Police faced stringent criticism over the high number of deaths during last week’s simultaneous drug operations in Bulacan and Metro Manila.

Among the scores killed in the said operations was 17-year-old Kian Loyd Delos Santos, a senior high school student in Caloocan City, whom the police and supporters of the drug trade claim was a drug runner and pusher.

“Mahirap nito yung inaabuso, hindi ito dapat contest ng distrito kung sinong pinakamaraming napatay kasi kung magiging contest ito ng patayan, hindi matatapos yun,” she said. “Paulit-ulit na lang yun dahil may paghihiganti ng mangyayari diyan. Basta pag contest nilang dinadaan ito sa dami ng patayan, walang mananalo dito.”

Last week was one of the bloodiest in President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign to eradicate illegal drugs in the Philippines, with 80 killed across Luzon.

On Tuesday, simultaneous police operations in Bulacan, a province north of Manila, resulted in the death of 32 drug suspects. The police added that they also recovered P500,000 worth of methamphetamine, locally known as shabu, as well as 21 firearms.

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These were followed by another string of anti-drug operations in Manila the following day, resulting in the death of 25 people. The police claimed that the suspects violently resisted arrest and endangered the lives of arresting cops, a common narrative in the drug war.

Another 18 were killed in Thursday and Friday operations by police in Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela, contiguous cities north of Manila.

It was, however, the death of Delos Santos, a teenager who wanted to be a policeman, that spawned widespread condemnation, even from traditional allies of the president in the Senate. His mother immediately flew back to their home from abroad upon hearing the news.

Sen. Francis Escudero, Poe’s running mate during last year’s elections, called the cops involved in the deadly operation “criminals and killers.”

He also warned abusive policemen that the term of Duterte, who in the past offered strong support and assurances to cops, would end in 2022 after which they could be held criminally responsible.

Director General Ronald Dela Rosa, the chief of the Philippine National Police, said he was sorry over the death of Delos Santos but remained defiant in defending the drug war.

Poe said that everybody, including drug users, couriers or peddlers, should be given due process as guaranteed by the law.

'Senate not silent over killings'

She also defended the Senate and said that when needed the chamber had condemned abusive cops in the government’s drug war.

“Alam nyo, yung dati sa Albuera Mayor— yung Senado talagang kinondena ito at sinabing ‘dapat maalis siya (Supt. Marcos) sa serbisyo, dapat makulong siya, dapat patawan siya ng parusa.’ Hindi naman yun ang pinakinggan, pero at least lumabas ang katotohanan sa pagdinig sa Senado,” she said.

“Ang matitiyak ko lang ay sarili ko, palagi naman kung anong sa tingin kong nararapat, yun ang ating pinaglalaban,” she added.

The government’s bid to eradicate narcotics in the country has faced strong criticisms both from here and abroad. Human rights groups said that the campaign had killed more than 12,500 people, mostly small-time users and dealers from urban poor communities, since it began in July last year.

Police said that 3,500 of those were killed by officers in self-defense while the remaining cases were still under investigation.

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