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Philippine drug war intensifies, 32 slain in a day

MANILA

Philippine police killed 32 people in dozens of anti-drug operations in a province north of the capital, Manila, and President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday urged police to kill dozens of drug suspects every day.

About 109 petty criminals, including street-level drug peddlers were arrested and dozens of guns seized in police operations across Bulacan province from Monday night until Tuesday afternoon, said provincial police chief, Romeo Caramat.

“We have conducted ‘one-time, big-time’ operations in the past, so far, the number of casualties and deaths, this is the highest,” Caramat told a news conference.

He defended police action and said the deaths were during shootouts, and were not executions, as activists have often alleged.

“There are some sectors that will not believe us, but, we are open for any investigation. All we can say is that we don’t have any control of the situation. As much as possible, we don’t want this which 109 suspects were also arrested.

“We wanted to shock and awe these drug personalities,” Caramat said.

“Other drug personalities will think twice before continuing with their drug trade.”

Caramat insisted the police had killed the suspects in self defence, adding that pistols and grenades had been seized in the raids.

“We know we have done nothing wrong,” Caramat said. He later said that no police had been killed or wounded.

Police conducted 49 sting drug operations in Bulacan that resulted in about 20 armed encounters, Caramat said. Ten other gunfights ensued when police tried to serve arrest warrants to suspects who fought back.  He said 93 of those held were wanted for other crimes, as well as drugs offences.

Bulacan has been a major target in the drugs war, with some 425 people killed and 4,000 offenders arrested, according to Caramat, making it the second-biggest hot spot in the crackdown outside of the Manila area.

Thousands of people have been killed in the anti-drugs campaign, Duterte’s signature policy, since it was launched on June 30 last year, most users and small-time dealers from poor neighborhoods.

The intensity of the crackdown has alarmed the international community, and activists and human rights groups say police have been executing suspects and planting drugs and guns at crime scenes. Police and the government officials reject that.

Police also deny involvement in thousands of murders by mysterious gunmen, blaming them on gang turf wars, or vigilantes targeting drug users.

Agencies