Thursday, April 20, 2017
MANILA – Philippine police frequently receive cash payments for executing drug suspects, planting evidence at crime scenes, and carrying 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 interviews with Reuters.
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-defense 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, claimed the killings are in fact orchestrated by the police, including most of those carried out by vigilantes. They spoke with Reuters on the condition of anonymity.
“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 president’s office and the Philippine police did not respond to questions from Reuters.
‘Only the poor are dying’
The intelligence officer has authored an unpublished 26-page report on the conduct of the drug war in an effort to organize opposition to Duterte’s campaign.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 P10,000 a head – rapists, pickpockets, swindlers, gang members, alcoholics and other “troublemakers.”
It also claims that civilian members of the so-called “Davao Death Squad”, which rights activists allege killed hundreds of people in Duterte’s hometown of Davao City, were drafted to “augment and assist” the police’s current nationwide anti-drug operation.
The report doesn’t provide documentary evidence for its accusations, which the intelligence officer said were based on accounts from 17 serving or former policemen, including the commander Reuters interviewed. 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.”
According to the report, the cash “reward scales” for drug killings range from P20,000 for a “street level pusher and user,” to P50,000 for a member of a neighborhood council, one million pesos for “distributors, retailers and wholesalers,” and five million for “drug lords.”
Police officers kill for money, said the commander, but also out of fear: Even the police are afraid of being included on a “watch list” of drug suspects drawn up by police and local officials.
Officials have been killed for not cooperating, he added. He said he was aware of two cases but did not provide details on exactly what happened.
Reuters reported last year that the watch lists were effectively hit lists, with many of those named ending up dead. Another Reuters investigation showed that police officers were killing 97 percent of the suspects they confront in violent buy-bust operations, the strongest evidence yet that the police were summarily executing suspects.
Officers also cooperate because they know the police force’s flawed disciplinary system, which fails to adequately investigate even a fraction of the killings, means there is little chance they will get caught, said the intelligence officer. (Reuters)