MANILA – Reuters submitted five questions to the Presidential Communications Office of Rodrigo Duterte for the news agency’s investigation into police killings of drug suspects. The questions and replies are reproduced here in full, edited only for spelling and punctuation:
1. In anti-drug operations in which police say they kill suspects in self-defense (2,004 deaths), almost none of the suspects survive. Why is that?
Answer: THE DRUG WAR IS SERIOUS.
The drug war is not child’s play.
Unfortunately, those who resist and fight back with arms have to be dealt with by tough law enforcement. Violent encounters do have the risk of the suspects being killed because they are armed in the first place. If they are fighting the police, the police have no recourse but to shoot back, else they could be the ones to end up dead. It’s unfair to say that none of the suspects survive. Police and drug personalities can end up wounded, if they survive. For more detailed information, you may want to contact the Public Information Office of the Philippine National Police. [Editor’s note: The police told Reuters that they did not have statistics for suspects injured in anti-drug operations.]
2. Philippine police operations are much deadlier than those of police forces in other comparable countries. Why?
Answer: The statement is evidently one-sided trying to depict the Philippines as The Wild, Wild West in this part of the world. If indeed Philippine police operations were much deadlier than those in other countries, why are there increasing incidents of police authorities getting wounded or killed in operations?
There are two sides in every story. Unfortunately, our hardworking law enforcement officers who are risking life and limb to rid society of drugs and crime do not land on the front pages of the papers.
3. Many Filipinos, and not just the families of victims killed in drug raids, suspect that police buy-bust operations are actually extrajudicial executions. Family members say that relatives have been executed by the police and that many of the police shootings follow a similar pattern, with the suspect opening fire and then a revolver and shabu (methamphetamine) being found on their bodies after the police shoot them dead. What is your response to the claim that this points to extrajudicial killings by the police?
Answer: We decry the attribution of drug-related killings to the police. Again and again, the President has reiterated that his adherence to due process and rule of law is uncompromising. He knows the limits of his authority as President.
The President has consistently indicated that the drug war is on the level of narcopolitics. This means the drug trade is so serious that the nature of a number of deaths implies internecine, or killings within the organization of the drug trade. These do not fall under the ambit of the law but remain our concern.
4. What does this high number of killings by police say about the progress of the war on drugs? When will the war on drugs end?
Answer: We have only scratched the surface. No one knew the magnitude of the drug problem in the country. It is just recently that we have learned of the disturbing rise of narcopoliticians who use drug money to buy votes.
As to when this will end, to quote the President, “It will continue until the last pusher is out of the streets.” He said: “The drug war will be sustained and relentless until the last drug lord, the last financier, and the last pusher have surrendered or put behind bars.”
5. President Duterte’s critics say that, in his war on drugs, he has given free rein to the police to execute drug suspects. What is the President’s answer to this criticism?
Answer: The President has not empowered the police to kill drug dealers and suspects. His marching order to the police is that they have the right to defend themselves when their lives are endangered when drug suspects violently resist arrest. As the Chief Executive said in his first State of the Nation Address, “To our police officers and other officials, do your job and you will have the unwavering support of the Office of the President. I will be with you all the way. Abuse your authority and there will be a hell to pay, for you will have become worse than criminality itself.”
Also, police authorities take seriously allegations of all officers’ involvement in drug-related killings, and they follow established internal procedures for investigating and addressing such cases.