The Philippine police have received cash payments for executing drug suspects, planted evidence at crime scenes and carried out most of the killings they have long blamed on vigilantes, said two senior officers who are critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs.”
In the most detailed insider accounts yet of the drug war’s secret mechanics, the two senior officials challenged the government’s explanations of the killings in an interview.
Almost 9,000 people, many small-time users and dealers, have been killed since Duterte took office on June 30. Police say about a third of the victims were shot by officers in self-defence during legitimate anti-drug operations. Human rights monitors believe many of the remaining two thirds were killed by paid assassins operating with police backing or by police disguised as vigilantes – a charge the police deny.
The two senior officers, one a retired police intelligence officer and the other an active-duty commander spoke on the condition of anonymity that the killings are in fact orchestrated by the police, including most of those carried out by vigilantes.
“It is the Philippine National Police doing it,” said the retired intelligence officer. “This killing machine must be buried six feet under the ground.” He said he was angry about the impact of the killings on police discipline and wanted “to put Duterte on the defensive.” Reuters was unable to independently verify if the police are behind vigilante killings.
The intelligence officer has authored an unpublished 26-page report on the conduct of the drug war in an effort to organise opposition to Duterte’s campaign. The report, titled “The State-Sponsored Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines,” provides granular detail on the campaign’s alleged methods, masterminds and perpetrators. The document has been shared with leaders of the Catholic Church in the Philippines and with the government-funded Commission on Human Rights. The report claims that police are paid to kill not just drug suspects, but also – for 10,000 pesos ($200) a head – rapists, pickpockets, swindlers, gang members, alcoholics and other “troublemakers.”
The police commander said he agreed to talk because he was upset that authorities are targeting only petty drug suspects. “Why aren’t they killing the suppliers?” he asked. “Only the poor are dying.”