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Palace doubts SWS respondents' misgivings on 'nanlaban' deaths

A police forensics operative sketches a drug suspect reportedly killed in a shootout with police in Santa Maria, Bulacan. Romeo “Boy” Cruz, file
MANILA, Philippines — The Palace on Thursday played down a survey that found that more than half of respondents doubt the police's "nanlaban" narrative, saying these contrast with high trust in President Rodrigo Duterte.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the recently released Social Weather Stations survey was surprising "considering the fact that most people have approved and do continue to approve the president, his actions and his intentions."
In an SWS survey released in July, 78 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with President Rodrigo Duterte's performance against just 10 percent who were undecided and 12 percent who said they were dissatisfied.
"So it’s a little bit surprising that there’s this sudden shift, seems to be a sudden shift in the approval, in the perception," he said. He added the Palace found "some of their (SWS) questions rather leading and leading to conclusions."
According to the second quarter 2017 SWS survey, 54 percent of respondents doubted the claims of cops that slain suspects fought back, with just 20 percent saying they strongly agree.
Disbelief over the “nanlaban” narrative is highest in Metro Manila at 63 percent. It is slightly lower in the rest of Luzon at 56 percent and in Visayas and Mindanao, both at 49 percent.
According to the government’s #RealNumbersPH campaign's release as of August 29, there were 3,811 drug personalities who died in anti-drug operations since July 1, 2016.
"[L]et me bring you back that as per the recent presentation of DFA Secretary Alan Cayetano, the international community of nations accepts the Philippine position regarding the way we handle—we’re handling the campaign against drugs," the president's spokesman also said.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, a partymate of the president and a former chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said Wednesday after being asked about the survey that the perception is a challenge for the police.
"Actually, the burden is a police matter. The burden is on the PNP to show that it has the minimum skills and capability to solve at least some of these crimes if not all pero ang malungkot if it cannot even solve one of these thousands of crimes," he said, referring to so-called "deaths under investigation," or those that the police have yet to determine motive for.
"Wala akong naririnig if the PNP has solved any of this killings then they should [report to] media and announce their achievement. Wala tayong naririnig. Kaya tuloy dito sa Senado nararamdaman ko yung tiwala sa PNP, yung bilib sa PNP eh wala. Bumabagsak o nawawala," he also said.

HRW not surprised at doubt

Rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, said the SWS survey results are not surprising.
"HRW's research into many of these anti-drug operations clearly shows the intent of police and their agents to summarily execute the victims. Police claim that the victims fought back — hence forcing the police to shoot them down — were thoroughly debunked in most of the cases Human Rights Watch documented," HRW Deputy Asia Director Philem Kine said in an email to media.
"What's needed now is for concerned Filipinos to add their voices in support of Human Rights Watch's call for a United Nation-led investigation into the "drug war" as a means to end the slaughter and provide accountability for the victims," Kine said.
But, Abella insisted Thursday, "the President needs just to continue doing what he’s doing because we believe — not believe — based on recent surveys also, the approval rating is very, very high and the acceptance of what he does is very, very high."
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