Investigators gather around a drug suspect who had been killed in a police operation in Manila, in this August 2016 photo. NEW YORK TIMES

MANILA – An Ateneo-La Salle study of extrajudicial killings in the country under the Duterte administration will bring the public “closer to the truth,” according to Sen. Leila de Lima.

“The real number of the dead might never be known,” the senator on Friday said.

The study – which was conducted by researchers from Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle UniversitY – is a “very important contribution to the documentation of extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s drug war,” de Lima added.

According to the researchers, there are more poor people and low-level drug suspects killed in the bloody drug war.

Between May 10, 2016 and September 29, 2017, “big time” drug suspects only comprised three percent of the 5,021 drug-related deaths, the study said.

“The PNP (Philippine National Police) itself in its 2017 accomplishment report to the President puts the number of dead at 20,322, combining the number of those killed in police operations and so-called ‘deaths under investigation’ – the PNP’s euphemism for vigilante killings committed by urban death squads,” de Lima said.

She added that the PNP “actually cites these numbers as accomplishments in the drug war that they boast to Duterte, thereby admitting that the work of the vigilantes is an integral part of the drug war.”

The former Justice secretary pointed out that the interuniversity study will “serve as one of the take-off points for an independent and complete reckoning of the people responsible for this dark chapter in our nation’s history.”

The study found that Metro Manila was the largest hotspot for drug-related killings with 2,000. It was followed by Bulacan (644) and Cebu (383)./PN

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