Cor­rupt cops ex­ploit Duterte’s war on drugs

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

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 –

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