Corrupt cops exploit Duterte’s war on drugs
A YEAR after Rodrigo Duterte won the presidency of the Philippines on a promise to kill all the country’s drug users and dealers, an estimated 9 000 people are dead – either shot in police raids with high death tolls and few witnesses, or murdered by assassins on motorbikes, often after being named by police.
Officers are also allegedly using illegal detention and violence to extort cash.
Abuses by Philippine cops did not start with Duterte, but the president’s vow to protect law enforcement from prosecution has created a climate ripe for abuse.
Police officers act without fear of consequence, said Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, a longtime Duterte critic, now in jail on dubious drug charges. “This is the height of impunity,” she wrote from her jail cell.
For months, reporters and rights activists in Manila had heard stories of families being asked to pay to get their loved ones out of detention, or to stop them from being put on a drug list, or to keep them alive.
For the most part, terrified witnesses did not want those stories shared.
It took the murder of a South Korean executive at national police headquarters and a subsequent – attempt to extort his wife to garner – a government response: Duterte promised to suspend anti-drug operations to clean up a force that was, as he put it, “rotten to the core”.
Human rights investigators discovered a secret cell at Police Station No 1 in Manila crammed with detainees who said they had been picked off the street and held for up to a week without charge.
They said that they had been beaten and given electric shocks. Their families were told to raise up to 200 000 pesos (R52 089), or else they could face drug charges – or worse.
“They were forcing us to admit to things we know nothing about,” said a prisoner named as Robert Muro. Washington Post –