Since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s launched his bloody war on drugs, the country’s police and their hired hitmen have killed more than 7,000 suspected drug offenders, according to a new Amnesty International report.
The incentive for the bloodshed: money.
As one officer with an anti-illegal drugs unit in Manila reportedly told the human rights group, police are paid “per head,” between $160 and $300 depending on whether the person killed is a suspected user or dealer.
“We’re paid in cash, secretly, by headquarters,” the officer reportedly said. “There’s no incentive for arresting. We’re not paid anything.”
Amnesty International’s investigation documents 33 drug-related incidents where 59 people were killed, the vast majority of which “appear to have been extrajudicial executions,” it said.
The lengthy report, released Tuesday, concludes that the widespread killings, many ordered directly by government, “may constitute crimes against humanity” under international law.
“This is not a war on drugs, but a war on the poor,” Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s crisis response director, said in a statement. “Often on the flimsiest of evidence, people accused of using or selling drugs are being killed for cash in an economy of murder.”
Of the 7,025 drug-related killings between July 1, 2016 and Jan. 21, 2017, police were directly involved in at least 2,500, the group found. Additionally, officers have reportedly been found planting evidence and falsifying reports, stealing from those they kill and working directly with funeral homes to make an extra profit off the grieving families.
On Wednesday, Filipino Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, dismissed Amnesty International’s report, claiming the killings can’t be crimes against humanity because drug offenders are not human, The Washington Post reported.
“How can that be when your war is only against drug lords, drug addicts, drug pushers? You consider them humanity? No. I believe not,” he said, according to the publication.
Duterte’s violent anti-drug campaign has created what the report calls a “pervasive climate of fear” in the Philippines. Photojournalist Daniel Berehulak, who documented 57 homicide victims over 35 days for The New York Times, wrote that his experience “felt like a new level of ruthlessness: police officers’ summarily shooting anyone suspected of dealing or even using drugs, vigilantes’ taking seriously Mr. Duterte’s call to ‘slaughter them all.’”
The Amnesty International report calls on Duterte to end the extrajudicial executions and for the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute anyone involved, even members of the police force.
Although it is unlikely that the anti-drug killings will stop, Duterte has acknowledged police corruption. On Monday, following the death of a South Korean businessman, he sidelined his drug war to target crooked cops.
“You are corrupt to the core,” he said. “It’s in your system. Cleanse your ranks. Review their cases. Give me a list of who the scalawags are.”
Read the full Amnesty International report here.
Warning: The following video may be disturbing to viewers.