MANILA, Philippines – The first seven months of the rollout of President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promise of getting rid of drugs in the streets has been marred with a glaring and rather confusing portrayal as to how the police wants the toll of deaths during police operations be seen and understood.
In one hand, the high number is being treated as a measure of success, while on the flip side, it is suggested to be called-for and necessary evil of the police to defend themselves.
For example, the Philippine National Police displayed developments made under Project Double Barrel on its multimedia bulletin mounted outside one of their headquarters’ entrance gates.
The bulletin showed 2,295 drug suspects “killed in police operations” as part of its accomplishments under Project Double Barrel and Oplan Tokhang as of December 29, 2016.
The PNP Public Information Office’s official Twitter account also released a photo of Northern Police District’s “accomplishment on Project Double Barrel and Oplan Tokhang” that included drug pushers and users killed in encounter as part of the roster, showing a tally of 135 and 22, respectively.
NPD accomplishment on Project Double Barrel “Oplan Tokhang” pic.twitter.com/F845MXyN9L
— PNP-PIO (@pnppio) November 16, 2016
Some regional police offices also followed this reporting style for their drug accomplishments in their public advisories.
For one, this press release from Soccsksargen regional police mentioned 57 “killed” drug personalities as part of its “PRO 12 Accomplishment on Double Barrel” as of mid-September last year.
Zamboanga region police also included 29 drug pushers “killed” as part of their “accomplishment on Project Double Barrel”, adding that “they opt to fight against police operatives during the conduct of police operations”.
And while the police repeatedly paraded their kill toll as an accomplishment, when pressed by the media about the high number of deaths, a circumstantial excuse is brought up for defense.
In multiple instances, the very same kill toll has been publicly and repeatedly cited as a consequence of the slain alleged drug suspects’ resistance, in which the police has no choice but to use force.
During a Senate hearing in late August, PNP chief Director General Ronald de la Rosa, as reported by Inquirer.net including a video of the actual exchange, said that all 752 killed during police operations at that time were all because they resisted arrest, adding that “otherwise kung hindi sila nalaban, buhay sila.”
Also, in an interview with veteran host Winnie Monsod in “Bawal ang Pasaway”, the police chief also denied that the deaths were intentional.
The exchange between Monsod and de la Rosa, as shown in the video below from the episode that aired on August 22, went on as follows:
Monsod: What advantage do they have if the surrender, hindi sila mapapatay?
De la Rosa: Namamatay po yung mga pusher, pusher na lumalaban.
Monsod: Ito user lang ito, bakit sila natatakot at pumupunta sa inyo?
De la Rosa: *shrugs*
Monsod: Is it possible that the police do not care whether you are a user or a pusher they just kill?
De la Rosa: No, hindi po kami ganoon.
Monsod: You are telling our Kapuso that the 656 people that the police killed were all pushers?
De la Rosa: Yeah.
As of Jan. 14, PNP said that there were 2,239 drug personalities killed, 45,194 arrested, and 1,025,473 surrendered since the police launched its campaign against illegal drugs on July 1, 2016, coinciding with President Duterte’s first day in office. — RealTalk, February 2, 2017.