Philippines: Nearly 8,000 police punished over drug killings

A Philippine official said thousands of police officers have received administrative punishments, and more than 2,000 were dismissed, for wrongdoings during raids where drug suspects were killed. (AP)
Updated 18 July 2019

Philippines: Nearly 8,000 police punished over drug killings

  • Up to 14,724 policemen were investigated for their involvement in police drug operations that led to deaths from July 2016 until last April
  • Thousands of drug suspects have been killed in raids carried out by the police

MANILA: Thousands of Philippine police officers have received administrative punishments with more than 2,000 dismissed for wrongdoings during raids where drug suspects were killed under the president’s crackdown, officials said Thursday.

Communications Assistant Secretary Marie Rafael Banaag told a news conference that 14,724 police were investigated for their involvement in police drug operations that led to deaths from July 2016 until last April. She said 7,867 of them received administrative punishments for unspecified lapses.

A tally presented by Banaag showed that 2,367 police officers have been fired, 4,100 suspended while the rest were reprimanded, demoted, had their salaries forfeited or deprived of certain privileges.

Banaag did not say how many officers have been criminally charged for serious lapses or outright crimes committed while enforcing the crackdown, which was launched by President Rodrigo Duterte as his centerpiece program when he took office in mid-2016.

Philippine police officials say about 6,600 drug suspects have been killed in raids carried out by the police mostly in gunbattles that ensued after the suspects fought back and endangered the lives of law enforcers. Banaag and other officials reported a lower death toll, more than 5,500, saying authorities were still verifying other drug-related deaths.

Last year, a Philippine court found three police officers guilty of killing a student they alleged was a drug dealer in the first known such conviction under the crackdown.

The court ruled the officers murdered Kian Loyd delos Santos during a raid in Caloocan city’s slums in the Manila metropolis and rejected the policemen’s claim that the 17-year-old fired back while resisting arrest. Delos Santos’s family and witnesses testified in official investigations that he was shot in a dark alley near a creek as he pleaded for his life.

Delos Santos’s killing and that of a South Korean was allegedly strangled to death by an anti-drugs officer in an extortion attempt prompted Duterte to briefly suspended the drug crackdown amid outcries.

“There are certain flaws probably in what happened during operations but these are actually being addressed,” Undersecretary Severo Catura, an official dealing with human rights issues, said in the news conference.

“That’s why we are saying here that however we’re concerned with regard to apprehending criminals, we’re also that concerned with regard to ensuring that the rule of law is followed,” Catura said.

He added that more than 200 policemen have been killed and 700 others wounded in drug raids — statistics that Duterte himself has often cited to counter allegations by human rights activists that police have killed suspects beyond the law because they violently resisted.

Banaag said it was the first time authorities disclosed the full extent of police who have been disciplined for lapses in the anti-drug crackdown.

Former Commission on Human Rights chairwoman Loretta Ann Rosales, however, said the high number of erring enforcers involved in raids where lives were lost in alarming levels should prompt the government to immediately suspend and review the crackdown.

“It’s terrible, it’s alarming, it’s unconscionable,” Rosales said.

Duterte had rejected those calls and warned drug suspects that his campaign would be more dangerous in the final three years of his six-year presidency.


Hong Kong endures more transit disruptions, campus violence

Updated 12 min 40 sec ago

Hong Kong endures more transit disruptions, campus violence

  • Police said protesters shot several arrows at them near Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Life in this city of 7.5 million has been strained as thousands of commuters have been unable to get to work or endured lengthy commutes
HONG KONG: Hong Kong residents endured a fourth day of traffic snarls and mass transit disruptions Thursday as protesters closed some main roads and rail networks while police skirmished with militant students at major universities.

Police said protesters shot several arrows at them near Hong Kong Polytechnic University. None of the officers were injured, and six arrows were seized at the scene, police said.

Life in this city of 7.5 million has been strained as thousands of commuters have been unable to get to work or endured lengthy commutes.

The government appealed for employers to show flexibility. “For staff who cannot report for duty on time on account of conditions in road traffic or public transport services, employers should give due consideration to the circumstances,” a statement said.

The Education Bureau extended the suspension of classes for kindergarten to high school students until Monday. It ordered schools to remain open, though, to handle children whose parents need to send them to school.

At Polytechnic University, protesters shot an arrow at officers patrolling nearby, then threw flower pots from a height when other officers arrived. Police responded with tear gas, and protesters fired more arrows.

Protesters have hurled gasoline bombs and thrown objects off bridges onto roads below during clashes at campuses this week. The Chinese University of Hong Kong suspended classes for the rest of the year, and others asked students to switch to online learning.

Students at Chinese University, site of some of the fiercest clashes where students hurled more than 400 firebombs at police on Tuesday, have barricaded themselves in the suburban campus.

Early Thursday they used chainsaws to drop trees onto streets around the campus and prepared for a possible confrontation with police, which were not intervening.

Anti-government protests have riven Hong Kong, and divided its people, for more than five months.

A major rail line connecting Kowloon to mainland China was closed for a second day and five major underground stations were shut along with seven light rail routes, the Transport Department announced.

“Road-based transport services have been seriously affected this morning due to continued road blockages and damage to road facilities. In view of safety concerns and uncertain road conditions, buses can only provide limited services,” the department said.
Traffic was also disrupted because protesters have destroyed at least 240 traffic lights around the city.

The movement began in June over a now-withdrawn extradition bill. Activists saw it as another sign of an erosion in Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms, which China promised would be maintained for 50 years under a “one nation, two systems” principle when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.