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How Philippine police have coordinated extrajudicial killings of drug offenders and absorbed notorious ‘Davao Death Squad’

How Philippine police have coordinated extrajudicial killings of drug offenders and absorbed notorious ‘Davao Death Squad’
Reuters file photo

How Philippine police have coordinated extrajudicial killings of drug offenders and absorbed notorious ‘Davao Death Squad’

The report described a reward system that offers cash payments to those who execute the suspects, with the money coming from government and “illegal” funds

Philippine police have secretly implemented a systematic programme to coordinate its execution of suspected drug offenders, according to new details of a report authored by a retired intelligence officer. The report also alleges police have absorbed the infamous “Davao Death Squad”, allegedly run by President Rodrigo Duterte during his 22 years as mayor of the southern city.

The South China Morning Post obtained a copy of the 26-page report by the retired officer who earlier this week shared his views, based on accounts from 12 serving and five retired officers up to the rank of chief superintendent.

The report claimed station commanders and their Philippine National Police (PNP) superiors would hold weekly meetings to coordinate efforts in locating and subsequently killing suspects. After targets had been located, police station chiefs would then coordinate with chairmen of Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Councils – the government’s village-level offices – to shut down closed-circuit TV cameras before executions took place.

“Killing by vigilante forces is definitely non-existent. It is PNP operatives riding in tandem who carry out (extrajudicial killings),” the report claimed. “Although there are several thugs who are police assets used for (the killings), these thugs serve as collectors, informants or auxiliaries, and are provided with budgetary funds to defray their expenses.”

The vigilante killings and bungled police operations leading to deaths of drug suspects were just “hoaxes”, it added.

Part of the report was first published by Reuters on Tuesday (April 18).

The report offered the most detailed insider accounts yet of Mr Duterte’s war on drugs. It accused the police of receiving cash payments for executing drug suspects; planting evidence in crime scenes; and alleged senior police leaders could issue “kill orders” against drug pushers and users across the country.

Senator Leila De Lima, one of Mr Duterte’s fiercest critics, indicated she believed the accusations in the report. Ms De Lima was arrested after launching a probe in Mr Duterte’s war on drugs but handwritten notes were posted to her Facebook page.

“I’m more than morally convinced that the ongoing human carnage targeting mostly the poor is state-sponsored as incited by a bloodthirsty head of state,” she wrote. “The cash rewards for the assailants and the planting of handguns and drugs on the slain suspect are the very characteristics of the nightmare called (Davao Death Squad).”

The Post could not verify the accusations in the report but many findings matched media reports previously published. The report was completed in January with the title “The state-sponsored extrajudicial killings in the Philippines”.

Mr Duterte’s office has rejected the report’s accusations.

“There is no truth in the allegation that there is a coordinated effort to kill drug suspects,” the office said. “The so-called officers interviewed must be living movie scenes.”

Police spokesman Dionardo Carlos also told the retired intelligence officer: “Man up. Don’t just hide behind the white cloth.”

According to the report, the police’s Scene of Crime Operation would carry out a “scripted” forensic investigation at the scene of extrajudicial killings.

“Planting of evidence is done to make it appear that the drug suspect resisted and fired back. A small quantity of shabu (crystal meth) and (a gun) are the usual ‘resistance killing’ evidence,” the report said.

It also said members of the Davao Death Squad has participated in the police’s anti-drugs operations and has been “integrated” to the force under a decision made by Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa in November last year.

Mr Dela Rosa has rejected claims that the death squad exists, previously dismissing it as a “fiction”.

The report described a reward system that offers cash payments to those who execute the suspects, with the money coming from government and “illegal” funds. For street-level pushers and users on the Drug Watch List, 20,000 pesos (S$561.20) is offered, and up to 2 million pesos for the execution of distributors, retailers and wholesalers.

“Across the country, PNP senior leaders issue ‘Kill Orders’ targeting all drug pushers and users,” the report said.

Since Mr Duterte became president on June 30, 2016, about 9,000 drug suspects have been killed. SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST