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REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES: The police’s murderous war on the poor

2 Feb 2017
[International Secretariat]

Acting on instructions from the very top of government, the Philippines police have killed and paid others to kill thousands of alleged drug offenders in a wave of extrajudicial executions that may amount to crimes against humanity, Amnesty International said in a report published today.

Amnesty International has documented how the police have systematically targeted mostly poor and defenceless people across the country while planting “evidence”, recruiting paid killers, stealing from the people they kill and fabricating official incident reports.

“Under President Duterte’s rule, the national police are breaking laws while profiting from the murder of impoverished people. The same streets Duterte vowed to rid of crime are now filled with bodies of people.”

The police, paid killers on their payroll, and unknown armed individuals have slain more than a thousand people a month under the guise of a national campaign to eradicate drugs. Since President Rodrigo Duterte came to office seven months ago, there have been more than 7,000 drug-related killings, with the police directly killing at least 2,500 alleged drug offenders.

Amnesty International’s investigation, documents in detail 33 cases that involved the killings of 59 people. Researchers interviewed 110 people across the Philippines’ three main geographical divisions, detailing extrajudicial executions in 20 cities across the archipelago. The organisation also examined documents, including police reports.

Killing unarmed people and fabricating police reports

The police have routinely claimed that they had been fired upon first. Witnesses told Amnesty International how the police conducted late night raids, did not attempt an arrest, and opened fire on unarmed persons. In some cases, witnesses said, the police planted drugs and weapons they later claimed as evidence.

In one case a victim’s wife described how the police shot dead her husband at close range as she pleaded with them for mercy.

In another case a man said he was ready to surrender. The police ordered him to lie down on the floor and then gunshots rung out.

Other people Amnesty International spoke to similarly described the dehumanization of their loved ones.

“The people killed are overwhelmingly drawn from the poorest sections of society and include children, one of them as young as eight years old.”

An economy of murder

The police killings are driven by pressures from the top, including an order to “neutralize” alleged drug offenders, as well as financial incentives they have created an informal economy of death, the report details.

Speaking to Amnesty International, a police officer with the rank of Senior Police Officer 1 described that they always get paid by the encounter with amount ranging from 8,000 pesos (US $161) to 15,000 pesos (US $302) per head, paid in cash. He added that it never happens that there’s a shootout and no one is killed.

According to the experienced frontline police officer, some police have established a racket with funeral homes, who reward them for each dead body sent their way. Witnesses told Amnesty International that the police also enrich themselves by stealing from the victims’ homes.

More than 4,100 of the drug-related killings in the Philippines over the past six months have been carried out by unknown armed individuals. “Riding in tandem”, as the phenomenon is known locally, two motorcycle-borne people arrive, shoot their targets dead, and speed away.

Two paid killers told Amnesty International that they take orders from a police officer who pays them 5,000 pesos (US $100) for each drug user killed and 10,000 to 15,000 pesos (US $200-300) for each “drug pusher” killed. Before Duterte took power, the paid killers said, they had two “jobs” a month. Now, they have three or four a week.

The targets often come from unverified lists of people suspected to use or sell drugs drawn up by local government officials. Regardless of how long ago someone may have taken drugs, or how little they used or sold, they can find their names irrevocably added to the lists.

We are calling on the government to order an immediate halt to all extrajudicial executions.

“We want the Philippines authorities to deal with this human rights crisis on their own. But if decisive action is not taken soon, the international community should turn to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to carry out a preliminary examination into these killings.

1 February 2017

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