Filipino policemen planted evidence on suspects while conducting the Duterte administration’s anti-drugs campaign, alleged a report from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that was released yesterday.
The OHCHR made the conclusion based on police reports detailing anti-drug ops which were conducted from August 2016 to June 2017 in Metro Manila, in which 45 persons were killed. In their reports, the Philippine National Police called 34 of the killings “neutralization.”
“In all the crime scenes, police claimed to have recovered satchels of methamphetamine and guns allegedly used by the victims to resist police officers. On the basis of these reports, OHCHR found that the police repeatedly recovered guns bearing the same serial numbers from different victims in different locations,” the report said.
“OHCHR identified seven handguns with unique serial numbers. Each handgun appeared in at least two separate crime scenes, while two of them re-appeared in five different crime scenes. The pattern suggests planting of evidence by police officers and casts doubt on the self-defence narrative, implying that the victims were likely unarmed at the time of [the] killing,” the report added.
The Duterte government launched its bloody drug war in 2016, where thousands of drug suspects have allegedly been summarily executed by members of the Philippine National Police. The authorities continue to insist that many of the killings occurred because the suspects fought back (“nanlaban”), an excuse that many Filipinos have become skeptical of.
In police documents presented to the Philippine Supreme Court, which is hearing a case that questions the constitutional basis of the drug war, the OHCHR found that out of 22 police operations, only one was conducted with a warrant of arrest. All of the 29 persons killed by the police died inside their own homes.
The OHCHR also noticed that the suspects uttered similar statements and made the same actions, despite the raids being conducted in different places and dates.
Human rights investigators found that the police reports “contained strikingly similar language to describe each victim’s alleged utterance (‘putang ina mo pulis ka pala‘ – which roughly translates as ‘so you are a police [officer], son-of-a-bitch’) and actions (‘suspect drew his weapon, fired at the lawmen but missed’), raising doubts about whether the reports were only filled pro forma.”
Investigators said that aside from suspects, 248 human rights defenders, legal professionals, journalists, and trade unionists have all been killed in connection with their professions from 2015 to 2019.
The Duterte government’s “heavy-handed focus” on stopping what it perceives as national security threats and the alleged growth of the illegal drug trade led to “serious human rights violations” in the country, which includes the killing and arbitrary imprisonment of suspects as well as the “vilification of dissent,” the report said.
A preliminary investigation on the drug war is also being conducted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), where the Philippines used to be a member. President Rodrigo Duterte unilaterally decided to exit from the ICC in 2019 after accusing the Netherlands-based tribunal of making “baseless, unprecedented, and outrageous attacks” against him and his government in connection to the drug war.