Drug war deaths increased not by half but only 5% during pandemic, insists Eleazar

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

A high-ranking officer of the Philippine National Police expressed skepticism today over a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, which said that drug war deaths increased by 50% during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, Philippine National Police deputy chief for administration, said in an interview with cable channel ANC that deaths only increased by 5% during those months.

“When it (report) was presented to the media, and I saw that it was 50%, I was in disbelief. But when our director for operations presented this [police report] a day or two after that, I saw an increase of 5% or 4.74% of those who have died in police operations. So it’s different, they’re very different,” he said in English and Filipino.

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

Eleazar said the police force has accomplished “a lot” during the pandemic, claiming that it had seized billions of pesos worth of methamphetamine from drug traders.

“Instead of focusing on street-level pushers which we were able to control because of this pandemic, we had the opportunity to run after the big fish,” he said.

Eleazar, however, could not name who these big-time drug traders were.

“I don’t know about the names, but the point is these are the ones who are involved in transacting billions of pesos worth [of illegal drugs]. The biggest haul is more than 800 kilograms [of illegal drugs] in Bulacan which we caught, and these Chinese personalities whom we arrested but I don’t know what their names are,” the police official said.

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

Citing a report from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, HRW said that there were 155 persons killed from April to July compared to the 103 persons who died from December 2019 to March 2020. Meanwhile, there were only 26 deaths recorded from July to November 2019.

President Rodrigo Duterte launched his bloody drug war in 2016, which has killed at least 5,810 drug suspects according to the official government figures. However, the number only includes those who died in legitimate police raids 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 died because of Duterte’s drug war.

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

The new chief of the Philippine National Police, General Camilo Cascolan, has said that extra-judicial killings, or the summary execution of suspects, does 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 raids.

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


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