Philippine police kill 32 in bloodiest night of Duterte’s war on drugs
THE GUARDIAN – Oliver Holmes South-east Asia correspondent
Police in the Philippines have killed more than 30 people in a series of raids near Manila, in the bloodiest night yet of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. Supt Romeo Caramat said 67 police operations in various parts of Bulacan, a province north of the capital, had left 32 “drug personalities” dead and more than 100 others arrested.
Human rights groups have repeatedly warned that Duterte, nicknamed “the Punisher” by his supporters for his approach to policing, may be overseeing crimes against humanity in his brutal anti-drugs campaign, which has left thousands dead. Duterte was elected president last year on a quick-fix, populist platform of wiping out crime and pledging to put drug pushers in funeral parlours, not prisons. He has said he is “happy to slaughter” millions of of drug users and dismissed the deaths of children as “collateral damage”. The former prosecutor said he used to personally kill criminals when he was mayor of the southern city Davao and once threw a suspect out of a helicopter. Since Duterte became president last July, government figures show police have killed 3,451 “drug personalities”. More than 2,000 other people have been killed in drug-related crimes and thousands more murdered in unexplained circumstances, according to police data. Duterte has vowed, however, to protect officers who kill drug suspects under suspicious circumstances. In February, after thousands of alleged drug users and suspected dealers had were killed, the president ordered a temporary halt in all operations, raising hopes that the bloodshed would end.
The raids between Monday to Tuesday resulted in the single largest death toll in one night since officers killed 16 people, including a city mayor, in an attack on a southern city on 30 July.
Police records said officers seized 21 firearms and about 100g (3.5 ounces) of “shabu”, a form methamphetamine.
The 72-year-old leader, who remains popular domestically, has lashed out at any international criticism of the killings.
He has warned the EU not to “fuck with us” after the European parliament passed a resolution expressing “grave concern over credible reports” that Philippine police were engaged in extrajudicial killings, a claim officers vehemently deny. Duterte also called the former US president Barack Obama a “son of a whore”. Britain has taken a less vocal stance over the killings, sending international trade secretary, Liam Fox, to meet Duterte in April, part of a global tour to seek post-Brexit deals with countries outside the European Union. President Donald Trump has also sought to ties with Duterte, praising him for an “unbelievable job” in his anti-narcotics campaign.
After the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, met Duterte last week, the Philippine president said Washington had “considerably toned down” criticism of human rights abuses.