MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 6:29 a.m., October 7, 2017) Just hours after claiming only one extrajudicial killing had taken place since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office last year, the spokesman of the Philippine National Police corrected himself and said there has been none.
Late Friday morning, October 6, Chief Superintendent Dionardo Carlos sent a message to reporters that said: “The PNP protects every individual’s right to life. To allay/remove their fear of becoming victims of EJK, let it be known that under the present administration, there is only one case of extrajudicial killing or EJK for the period 01July16 to 30Sept17.”
Thus, he added, “the possibility of them becoming victim of EJK is very remote, if we based it on facts and not on impression/perception. Rest assured that your PNP will continue to exert its best effort to improve the crime environment, with less crime incidents that may victimize our people.”
He was reacting to the results of a Social Weather Stations survey that showed 73 percent of respondents feared they or someone they knew would fall to extrajudicial killings, and 90 percent said it is important for drug suspects to be captured alive.
The single EJK, he claimed, was the murder of Catanduanes newspaper publisher Larry Que, who was gunned down in December last year, two weeks after accusing local officials of allowing the drug trade to thrive in the province.
But past 4 p.m. Carlos sent another statement saying he had made a “mistake” and had been “corrected by TF (Task Force) Usig that the Larry Que case is no a confirmed EJK case. So official, (there is) no case.”
The task force is the unit given the mandate to investigate EJKs.
The SWS survey was conducted in late June, more than a month before public anger over government’s war on drugs, which various tallies place at more than 13,000 lives and counting since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office last year, was reignited by the successive deaths of teenagers Kian Lloyd delos Santos and Carl Angelo Arnaiz at the hands of Caloocan City policemen in what authorities initially claimed were shootouts but subsequent investigations tended to indicate were coldblooded executions.
Another teenager, Reynaldo de Guzman, who disappeared together with his friend Arnaiz, was found floating in a creek in Gapan, Nueva Ecija, his face wrapped in packing tape and some 30 stab wounds in his body.
The bloodshed has reaped criticism from human rights organizations here and abroad as well as from foreign governments. But Duterte has responded by vowing even more deaths, although he has made it a point to deny ordering any killings.
After the killings of Delos Santos and Arnaiz, personnel of a Caloocan police station, with two civilian assets, one of them a minor, were captured on closed circuit television illegally entering and robbing an old woman’s home. The incident led to the relief of the whole city police force.
Despite the killings, Carlos said “the PNP is one with the Filipino people who want drug suspects (to) be captured alive.”
He noted that more than 109 million suspects were arrested in 71,393 anti-drug operations from July 1 last year to September 30 this year and are facing charges in court.
He added that the controversial Oplan Tokhang, the supposedly benign door-to-door campaign to convince drug pushers and users to surrender that has become synonymous with alleged police executions of suspects, saw “8,794,120 house visitations nationwide that resulted to 1,260,196 drug personalities who voluntarily surrendered to authorities.”
“The drug suspects who surrendered and (were) arrested alive comprise … 99.98 percent (of the) results of the PNP campaign against illegal drugs,” proving that “the PNP values the right to life of these unfortunate victims of illegal drugs,” Carlos said.