The Philippine National Police (PNP) shrugged off concerns about the ballooning incidences of drug-related killings in the country. Some human rights groups are alarmed at the increasing violence in the intensified anti-drug campaign by the Duterte administration, many of which are suspected summary executions.
But Camilo Cascolan, acting director for PNP Operations, belittled the concern. At a press conference, he said the number of killings, which totaled 239 so far in July, was relatively lower than the number of arrests which totaled 3,213 plus the 120,038 others who surrendered voluntarily.
The number of those killed was recorded from July 1 to 6 a.m. of July 22. When asked if this number was alarming in just the span of a month, Cascolan merely answered a flat “No.”
“What is the percentage then (compared to how many were arrested or who surrendered)? It is still less than 4-5 percent. We don’t just hit them if they don’t fight us,” he assured.
It should be noted, though, that the Philippine Daily Inquirer also has their own tally of the killings, dubbing it the Kill List, complete with the names of the casualties and the particulars of their death. Their figures, as of noon of July 21, are so much higher than those of the PNP’s, since they recorded 411 drug-related killings since May 10 and 364 killings since June 30.
The PNP was positive the crime rate will continue to decline as the campaign against criminality intensifies in the coming months. During one of his presidential campaign speeches, President Duterte estimated that crime, especially the drug problem, will be gone within 3 to 6 months.
The PNP maintains that the operations were legitimate and that the killings were a result of a shootout instigated by the suspects, not a robout. Incidentally, police authorities are urging people suspected of drug involvement to surrender peacefully to avoid harm.
Cascolan observed that a “significant downtrend” in crime incidents has been recorded in the first half of 2016. From a total of 52,950 when Aquino was still president, the total crime incidents slid down to 46,060 in June, according to a PNP data, showing a significant 6,890 decrease.
While the PNP is not alarmed by the killings, Vice President Leni Robredo issued her second statement against the “spate of extrajudicial killings that occurred recently.” She called for a stop to these killings.
“These senseless and unjust violence must stop. We should not foster a culture of fear in our society – one that tacitly accepts death and one that does not give respect to human life,” Robredo said.
She also urged authorities to investigate the killings and punish the culprits, while reminding everyone of the basic rights to due process. She also said, “We must all stand together in defending our human rights, as well as the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves.”
Senator Leila De Lima is also among the most critical of the spate of anti-drug killings lately. To check the incident, she filed a resolution seeking a congressional investigation on the matter. But Solicitor General Jose Calida dismissed this as nothing but grandstanding for media mileage. In addition, Calida claimed that this was De Lima’s effort to nullify the gains of the campaign.
However, De Lima maintained that the resolution is designed to ensure basic human rights and to make law enforcers accountable for their actions.
“Extrajudicial or summary killing is homicide. Carried out premeditatedly and in conspiracy with other public authorities, it becomes mass murder, which, if left unabated and unchecked, can escalate into a crime against humanity under international law,” she warned.
On their part, the PNP said that they did not tolerate vigilante style of executions.