THE Philippine government on Thursday hailed its war on drugs a “success” as police confirmed killing nearly 200 people in a two-month blitz that has outraged rights groups.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s office released a statement calling for authorities to “seize the momentum” of the anti-drug campaign, which has also led to a spate of vigilante killings that one media group said had claimed roughly 200 more lives.
“Anti-drug campaign a success,” said the title of the statement, released by Presidential Spokesman Martin Andanar.
“While the campaign against drugs is far from perfect, a generation of Filipinos have been saved from this scourge of society and destroyer of lives.”
His statement was issued as the national police released figures showing that officers had killed at least 192 people they said were involved in drugs from May 10 to July 10.
Duterte won the May 9 elections in a landslide after campaigning largely on a platform to eradicate crime within six months by unleashing security forces with shoot-to-kill orders.
He vowed on one occasion during the campaign that 100,000 people would die, and so many bodies would be dumped in Manila Bay that the fish there would grow fat from feeding on them.
The killings since the election indicate his campaign promises that thousands would die during his six-year term may not have been hyperbole.
Major TV network ABS-CBN said it had recorded 339 “drug fatalities” between May 10 and July 12, based on police and media reports.
The ABS-CBN’s tally includes almost 100 people who were gunned down by unidentified men or simply found murdered.
Images of people killed in police anti-drug operations, or corpses found with signs saying things like “I am a drug pusher” or “I am a drug addict,” have become daily fare in the local newspapers.
Since assuming the presidency, Duterte has also told police he would protect them from legal consequences if they killed drug dealers. He repeated campaign calls for the public to kill people they believed were criminals.
Andanar said Thursday that the “government is against any form of extra-judicial killings. We do not condone these acts”.
Police have insisted they have only killed people after facing threats from suspects. However rights groups have pointed to cases of people being killed inside police stations or after being arrested.