Official death toll in Duterte’s drug war now above 5,000

Human rights advocates protest drug war in 2017. (Photo: Mark Demayo/ABS-CBN News)
Human rights advocates protest drug war in 2017. (Photo: Mark Demayo/ABS-CBN News)

The number of deaths in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs continues to pile up more than two years after it was launched.

Numbers from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) obtained by the Kyodo News Agency on Tuesday show that the controversial drug war’s death toll has breached 5,000 people.

According to the same report, 5,050 were killed from July 1, 2016 to Nov. 30 of this year.

The PDEA’s tally was at 4,999 at the end of October, Rappler reported, which means that 51 people were killed in just a month.

And that’s just the official count from the government’s authorities. The Human Rights Watch had placed the number of drug war-related deaths at 12,000 people as early as last year.

Chito Gascon, the chief of the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights (CHR), said earlier this month that the death toll could be as high as 27,000.

Despite this, Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that the anti-narcotics crackdown should be “unrelenting,” GMA News reported.

Instead of being alarmed by the PDEA’s latest data, Panelo noted how 5,050 is much lower than the number “false news agencies” report.

“The number of deaths occurring in drug-related cases will depend on the circumstances surrounding the arrest, the buy-bust operation. You know, I’ve been reading reports, and I’m even amazed at until now there have been many buy-bust operations all over the country,” Panelo said in a news conference yesterday.

“I didn’t realize there were so many,” he said in Filipino. “I was shocked, so the fight against drugs should be unrelenting.”

Not even Christmas can stop the drug war.

On Monday, Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said that they won’t be taking a break from anti-drug operations this season — not even on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino also earlier said that they plan to intensify their operations, particularly in “high-end bars, hotels, condominiums, and posh villages,” as an attempt to catch those who use party drugs.

Apart from the deaths, the PDEA’s latest data shows that 164,265 drug personalities were arrested in 115,435 anti-drugs operations from July 2016 to November 2018.

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