Drug war deaths increased by 50% during COVID-19 pandemic, says Human Rights Watch

Photo: Philippine National Police/FB
Photo: Philippine National Police/FB

The number of Filipinos killed in police-led drug raids has increased during the lockdown, non-profit organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced in a report yesterday.

Based on the records of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Authority (PDEA), there were 50% more people killed from April to July this year, compared to the months before the entire country was placed on quarantine. The PDEA reported that there were 155 persons killed in the past four months, in comparison to the 103 persons who died from December 2019 to March 2020. Meanwhile, there were only 26 deaths recorded from July to November 2019.

Read: Human Rights Watch condemns Duterte drug war anew after death of 3-year-old girl in police raid 

President Rodrigo Duterte launched his bloody drug war in 2016, which has killed at least 5,810 drug suspects according to the PDEA. However, the number only includes those who died in legitimate police raids, according to HRW, and not those slain by unidentified killers believed to be undercover cops and vigilantes. The Commission on Human Rights said in 2018 that at least 27,000 suspects might have been killed in Duterte’s drug war.

The new chief of the Philippine National Police, General Camilo Cascolan, said earlier this week that extra-judicial killings, or the summary execution of suspects, do not exist in the country. Cops often say that they have to kill suspects out of self-defense because these alleged drug traders fought back (“nanlaban“) during drug raids.

However, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported in June that cops habitually planted guns on drug suspects’ bodies. In one example, the organization found that “that the police repeatedly recovered guns bearing the same serial numbers from different victims in different locations.”

Read: ‘Devoid of truth,’ Philippine police say of drug war rapes, torture, abuses reported by ICC

One case that proved extra-judicial killings exist in the country is that of teenager Kian delos Santos, who was gunned down by Caloocan City cops in August 2017. The police officers claimed that Delos Santos resisted arrest and that they killed him in self-defense, but CCTV footage from the crime scene showed them dragging the 17-year-old across a basketball court and into a dark alley where he was shot. The three cops linked to the incident were convicted in November 2018.

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