Duterte draws China into his ‘shoot-to-kill’ drug war with one simple question
The Philippines’ new president said many of the unclaimed bodies of suspected drug criminals killed in confrontations with police were Chinese nationals
The Philippines’ crime-fighting president says he plans to ask Chinese officials why some Chinese citizens who visit his country are allegedly involved in illegal drugs.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who has vowed to end crime within six months of taking office on June 30, also said that he would not hesitate to grant presidential pardons to law enforcers accused by human rights advocates of abusing their authority in cracking down on narcotics, as long as the soldiers and police involved tell the truth and do not fabricate evidence.
Duterte said 72,000 people have already surrendered since his administration launched the crackdown. He said many of the unclaimed bodies of suspected drug criminals were Chinese nationals.
“That’s my lamentation,” he said in a video released by his office Monday.
“One day I will ask China, Why is the situation like this? I won’t say why are you sending them, but why is it that most of the guys who come here do drugs, even inside jail?”
Duterte made the comments amid an outcry from rights advocates about the deaths of at least 212 suspected drug traffickers in confrontations with law enforcers since he won the May 9 presidential election.
They also come after four Hong Kong men were arrested last week on board a 50-metre fishing boat allegedly used to manufacture illegal substances, two miles off the coast of Zambales province, north-west of Manila.
The authorities alleged the men were part of a racket that was moving drugs from the vessel onto the mainland and that equipment used in the production of crystal meth - known as shabu in the Philippines - was also seized.
All four Hong Kong men, Leung Shu-fook, 49, Lo Wing Fai , 28, Kwok Kam-wah, 47, and Chan Kwok-tung, 42, have sought assistance from the Chinese Embassy in Manila.
Philippines television news showed Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa joking with journalists and saying: “Let’s just tie them by their necks and drop them into the sea, you like?
Last year a United Nations report identified Hong Kong and the mainland as key players in the burgeoning meth trade, citing law enforcement authorities in the Philippines and Australia. It also cited corruption within China’s pharmaceutical industry as a key factor in Guangdong becoming the production centre.
But the killings since the election indicate Duterte’s campaign promises that thousands would die during his six-year term may not have been hyperbole.
Duterte said he will prepare pre-signed presidential pardons, adding, “I will not hesitate to pardon 10, 15 military and policemen every day.”
In the town of Tanauan, south of Manila, around 1,100 drug dealers and users voluntarily surrendered to authorities Monday at a packed gymnasium, where they pledged to reform and report regularly to their village leaders after filling out forms and having their mugshots and fingerprints taken. They were also given counselling in groups by social welfare officers.
KC Saniano, the mayor’s chief aide, said 1,279 people were invited after their names were on a list of drug dealers and users gathered by intelligence agents and village officials. Only around 1,000 of those invited showed up, but another 100 not on the list voluntarily surrendered.
Mayor Antonio Halili warned those who were invited but did not show up, “I cannot assure your safety anymore.”
Police on Monday unveiled plans for a large electronic billboard outside the force’s Manila headquarters to broadcast a running tally of drugs suspects who have been arrested or “neutralised” -- killed - during operations.
The billboard will “give everyday people... the accomplishments of their police,” community relations chief Senior Superintendent Gilberto Cruz said.
The billboard, which was ordered by Duterte and the police leadership, will likely be completed by September, he added.
In a public statement, the Bangkok office of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) joined the chorus of groups criticising Duterte’s advocacy of killing.
ICJ criticised Duterte, saying “there has been a marked increase in the number of deaths of alleged drug dealers from the day you assumed office.”
Duterte earlier this month publicly named three alleged drug kingpins, including Cebu-based Filipino-Chinese businessman Peter Lim, whom the president threatened to kill.
“I will execute you ... I will finish you off,” Duterte said a bizarre meeting with the businessman that was filmed and posted on a government YouTube channel.
During his meeting with Duterte, which took place at a drug enforcement agency office in the southern city of Davao, Lim denied any involvement in illegal drugs, but admitted he was investigated in 1997 for alleged links to narcotics.
He then pledged cooperation in Duterte’s anti-crime campaign.
Additional reporting by Reuters and Agence France-Presse