Philippine deaths from drug operations breach 4,000: PDEA
Deaths due to President Rodrigo Duterte's war on illegal drugs has breached 4,000, according to government's official data.
In a press conference on "real numbers" in Malacanang Wednesday, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director and spokesman Derrick Carreon said from July 1, 2016 to Feb. 8, 2018, there were 4,021 drug personalities who died during the anti-drug operations by law enforcement agencies.
During the same period, he said a total of 85,068 anti-illegal drug operations were conducted by PDEA and other law enforcement agencies, resulting in the arrest of 121,087 drug personalities.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag said the government holds press conference on "real numbers" from time to time not just to "correct misleading numbers from the international rights groups of from the media, but to present the real story, the people behind these numbers and the stories behind every figure."
Duterte has been facing a complaint before the International Criminal Court for alleged crime against humanity due to his bloody war on drugs.
"While we know that the complaints filed before the ICC are founded on political motive and baseless numbers, we reiterate that the Philippine government respects and protects human rights; and our police officers, follow rules of engagement. There may be isolated cases of abuse, but our President never tolerate these cases," Banaag said.
Carreon said PDEA is ready to furnish ICC the data in relation to the government's campaign against illegal drugs if asked.
"But as of now, it’s still in the preliminary stages so we will wait and see as to where will PDEA and the other agencies step in, in order to support the figures or the campaign of the President," he said.
Chief Supt. John Bulalacao, Philippine National Police spokesman, on the other hand, said the police did not want to meddle on the issue against Duterte before the ICC.
"Malacanang has spoken about the position of the government in so far as this ICC is concerned. The Philippine National Police does not want to muddle the issue anymore and we are keeping a distance from it right now," he said.
Palace officials expressed belief that the complaint against Duterte before the ICC would not prosper.
Meanwhile, Bulalacao, in the same press briefing, said the PNP is trying to make its renewed anti-drug campaign to be bloodless.
But he added, "we want it emphasized that we are not expecting bloodless in Oplan Tokhang" as there were times that the targets would put up a fight against the policemen.
Apparently to appease criticisms against the government's bloody campaign against illegal drugs, Duterte for some time removed the PNP from conducting anti-drug operations late last year and allowed PDEA to be the lead and sole agency in the campaign.
But Duterte issued another directive bringing again the PNP and other agencies in the campaign, but with PDEA remains as the lead agency.
The PNP recently relaunched its Oplan Tokhang operation where 53 people were killed compared to the two deaths recorded when PDEA was the lone agency handling the anti-drug operations.
Bulalacao said more people have been killed in the PNP operations because the agency has been conducting more operations compared to PDEA.
"So we expect more casualties during (PNP's) operations against illegal drugs," he said.
PDEA has only about 2,000 agents as compared to 170,000-strong PNP. Celerina Monte/DMS