‘That’s good’: Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte praises police after they kill 57 in drug raids
By Clarissa Batino and Cecilia Yap
MANILA — Philippine police killed at least 57 people over two nights in a series of frenzied raids against suspected drug dealers that began Tuesday.
Police shot dead 25 people in Manila from Wednesday morning to Thursday, while 32 people were killed in Bulacan province north of the capital in similar anti-drug operations on Tuesday. The raids marked three of the bloodiest days in Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
“That’s good,” Duterte told a group of anti-crime volunteers Wednesday night at the presidential palace, referring to the raid in Bulacan. “If we can only kill 32 everyday, then maybe we can reduce what ails this country,” said Duterte, adding a call for a probe of human rights advocates he claimed were trying to obstruct justice.
Police have stepped up their efforts to shut down the country’s drug rings after 604 kilograms of crystal meth worth an estimated 6.4 billion pesos ($125 million) was seized after it entered the country in May and is now the subject of a Congressional investigation.
While the country’s Bureau of Customs has come under fire for failing to curb the entry of crystal meth, known as shabu, Duterte has absolved Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon of wrongdoing.
“The latest killings and Duterte’s public support for them show that the war on drugs is still ongoing,” said Malcolm Cook, a senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. “I doubt this massacre will affect support for the president.”
Since taking office in June 2016, Duterte has waged a deadly war on illegal drugs that has been condemned by the United Nations, the European Union and human rights advocates.
Duterte administration officials place total deaths at 3,451 in the 13 months through July 26, but Human Rights Watch earlier this year estimated that more 7,000 people had been killed, including at least three mayors.
Duterte said that eliminating the drug problem was much harder than he thought when he promised during the campaign to end it within three to six months. “I was talking with a background of what my experience was when I was the mayor of Davao City,” he said.
“It so happened that there were multiple targets and some people resisted so the deaths are expected,” Police chief Ronald dela Rosa said at a televised briefing from Ozamiz City when asked about the sheer number of people killed this week.
In a statement, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella promised a fair and impartial investigation into the raids in Bulacan, even as he noted that authorities “were met with violent resistance as evidenced by the recovery of firearms, grenades and live ammunition.”
— With assistance from Norman P. Aquino