Philippines denounces extrajudicial killings unless they are part of the war on drugs

Harriet Sinclair
Rodrigo Duterte

The Philippines has responded to US concerns over extrajudicial killings, claiming the government condemns such practices, but that they are 'not to be confused' with the war on drugs.

The US State Department's annual report on human rights released on Friday (2 March), highlighted the problem of killings in the Philippines, allegedly by vigilantes and security forces.

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Since Rodrigo Duterte launched his 'war on drugs' around 8,000 people have been killed in what is thought to be state-sanctioned violence, given the Philippines' president has previously suggested people can kill drug dealers if they resist arrest or carry a weapon.

The US state department's report said: "Although the president and senior officials stated that police should follow the law, and that there was no tolerance for extrajudicial killings, authorities made promises of immunity from investigation and prosecution for officers involved in drug killings."

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However, Duterte's spokesperson Ernesto Abella maintained the president was committed to upholding human rights, as well as his war on the drugs trade.

A statement from Abella seen by Reuters said: "Vigilante or extrajudicial killings are unlawful and are therefore not sanctioned. The government condemns such practice.

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"These are not to be confused with the government's war on illegal drugs, which is an urgent and critical domestic matter. We hope the international community will support us in this effort," he added.

Duterte is showing no signs of slowing up with his effort to rid the country of drug dealers, recently announcing plans to bring some police officers back into the fold for his continued war on drugs.

The fresh move came after the president suspended the Philippine National Police's (PNP) involvement in the crackdown on narcotics a month ago following the kidnap and murder of a South Korean businessman.

During that time, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) headed operations – and they will supervise new police task forces.

"It's going to be PDEA-supervised, whether done by the military or the police," said Duterte.

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