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'More poor dead in drug war because most pushers are poor'

Three of five Filipinos believe that only the poor are killed in the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign, the Social Weather Stations said in its latest survey. AFP/Noel Celis

MANILA, Philippines — Poor people are more likely to be killed in the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign because there are more of them involved in selling drugs.

Philippine Director General Ronald Dela Rosa stressed this point on Tuesday in reaction to the a Social Weather Stations survey that found that three of every five Filipinos believe only the poor are killed in drug operations.

“Totoo naman talaga [na] panay mahihirap [ang namamatay],” Dela Rosa told reporters on the sidelines of the signing of a partnership between the PNP and Light Rail Transport Administration.

He added: “You have to understand the dynamics of drug pyramid. ‘Yung mayayaman na drug lord, iisa ang drug lord sa taas, pababa ‘yan. ‘Yung pinakamababa ‘yung street-pushing level, puro mahirap ‘yun.”

According to the SWS survey, 60 percent agreed – 33 percent strongly and 27 percent somewhat agreed – with the statement "rich drug pushers are not killed; only the poor ones are killed".

Of the 1,200 respondents from Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, 23 percent disagreed – 12 percent somewhat and 11 percent strongly – while 17 percent were undecided.

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The poll was conducted nationwide from June 23 to 26, using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults aged 18 years and above.

Chief Inspector Kimberly Molitas, National Capital Region Police Office spokesperson, echoed Dela Rosa's statement, saying the drug trade is more prevalent in poor areas.

According to the latest statistics released by the PNP, there have been 6,225 drug-related deaths since July 2016.

The PNP said 3,850 have "died in police operations," suggesting these are drug suspects who engaged arresting officers in shootouts.

READ: Bato to drug war critics: You're ingrates

‘Big fish are targeted too’

Asked whether the government’s drug war only targets poor drug pushers, Dela Rosa responded, “Bakit mahirap ba si Parojinog? Mahirap ba si Espinosa? Hindi naman.”

He was referring to the deaths of alleged narco-politicians Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., his wife Susan, and Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa who were killed in police operations.

“Andami nang nakuha. I-cover niyo yung mga nakuha,” the police chief told reporters.

The Senate public order committee report said the killing of Espinosa was premeditated and involved abuse of authority.

Last month, P1.3 million worth of illegal drugs were seized during a raid on a condominium in Mandaluyong City.

The suspected dealer, Jovet Atillano, is said to be a major distributor of illegal drugs in Metro Manila, Baguio City, Cebu and Boracay island.

Most of his clients are young professionals and affluent people, authorities said.

Molitas also denied that more operations are conducted in marginalized communities than posh areas.

“Drug operations is regionwide regardless if it’s a poor or affluent area,” she told Philstar.com.

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