By Luis Liwanag
About 5,000 alleged drug addicts and pushers have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte launched his anti-drug war two years ago, a spokesman for the government’s drug enforcement agency said Wednesday, as the effort showed no signs of slowing down despite sustained international criticism.
From July 31, 2016 to Sept. 30 this year, the government had launched more than 110,000 anti-drug operations, according to the most-recent police data. Various groups, including the Human Rights Watch, have placed the deaths at about 12,000, a figure that Duterte and the police describe as exaggerated.
About 158,424 “drug personalities” have so far been arrested in the nationwide campaign, according to Derrick Carreon, spokesman for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, as he confirmed police figures that the death toll stood at 4,948 to date.
More than 500 government officials and about 60 policemen and soldiers were among those who have been arrested on suspicion of drug links, Carreon told BenarNews.
He described the drug war as a success, despite international criticism and two cases filed before the Hague-based International Criminal Court against Duterte,
“President Duterte recently appealed that aside from intensifying our anti-drugs campaign, we must also fight against corruption,” Carreon said, adding that corruption and lack of a stronger law such as death penalty against drug offenders worked against their campaign.
By reimposing capital punishment, the government stood a better chance of defeating the traffickers, Carreon said.
“Those who bring in drugs through large volumes corrupt our system,” he said. “There should be something stronger against them rather than just a prison term.”
The release of the official death toll came as a congressional probe was underway over the alleged successful smuggling of a ton of methamphetamine hydrochloride into the country.
Duterte and his officials had earlier warned that the country risked becoming a narco-state if he abruptly stopped his war on drugs.
The president has carried a list containing the names of politicians, judges, police and military officers who were allegedly involved in the drug trade.
He has so far not explained how he came up with the list, but at least three mayors whose names appeared on it had been gunned down, including one who died in an alleged shootout in jail.
Jeoffrey Maitem in Cotabato City contributed to this report.