Another night of bloodshed as war on drugs steps up a gear

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A police log of last night’s operations showing the number of arrests and deaths

At least 26 drug suspects were killed in police operations in Manila last night, just a day after 32 alleged dealers were gunned down in nearby Bulacan province.

Speaking today (Thursday, 17), Colonel Erwin Margarejo, of Manila police, said: “This is ‘one-time, big-time’ operations, so it is not focused only on drugs, we are operating also against other street crimes, like robbery, but these people could also be under the influence of drugs.

“If they resisted violently, our police have to defend themselves.”

As with the deaths in Bulacan, he said that all those killed had put up a fight. The two nights of raids, which saw a total of 84 operations, have also seen 179 people arrested. There have been no reports of police casualties.

It is not known what has prompted this week’s escalation in anti-drug operations, which have largely focused on impoverished neighbourhoods.

As we reported yesterday, the president has given the operations his support, saying: “Let’s kill another 32 every day. Maybe we can reduce what ails this country.”

In the same speech, the president also criticised human rights groups for getting in the way of his anti-drugs campaign and said police should shoot them if they obstructed justice.

This remark has been strongly condemned by the New York-based Human Rights Watch. Its deputy Asia director, Phelim Kine, who described the comments as “like painting a target on the backs of courageous people working to protect the rights and upholding the dignity of all Filipinos.”

Amnesty International has also been critical. Regional director James Gomez said: “These shocking deaths are a reminder that President Duterte’s lawless ‘war on drugs’ continues unabated and actually appears to be plumbing new depths of barbarity, with police routinely gunning down suspects, violating the key right to life and completely flouting due process.

“No one is bearing the brunt of this brutality more than the poorest communities in areas such as Bulacan province, a hotspot for extrajudicial executions since the president took power, and the scene of 21 of yesterday’s 32 killings.”

The president’s words have also been criticised by Vice President Leni Robredo, who said: “This is a thing where we need to express outrage.

“This is not us. The culture of impunity is something we have long renounced in our country. I just hope, I just hope we would not allow it to return.

“The processes under the Constitution is not being allowed to run its course to ensure justice is being given to all.”