Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted that police have carried out extrajudicial killings in his war on illegal drugs, but he refuses to cancel a shoot-to-kill order for drug gang suspects.
He claimed late on Thursday that most of the 400 people shot dead by police in the past month have been drug dealers and addicts exchanging fire with police.
The president added, however, that he was sure that some of them had been “salvaged,” which is local slang for extrajudicial killings.
Mr Duterte said the government would investigate any allegations of illegal killings.
“They really fight back, I know that. I’m sure there are some who were salvaged, I am also sure of that,” he said in a speech in Davao City, where he built a reputation for an uncompromising approach to crime before winning the presidency on June 30.
Mr Duterte repeated yesterday morning that he had given shoot-to-kill orders against drug dealers, including politicians involved in the illicit trade.
“I’ll really have you killed. Look at what you’re doing to the Philippines and I’ll forgive you?” he asked rhetorically after visiting a police chief shot in the chest by a suspected drug dealer and rushed to hospital.
“My order is shoot to kill you. I don’t care about human rights, you better believe me,” said the president.
The centerpiece of Mr Duterte’s anti-crime drive is an ambitious campaign promise to end the widespread drugs problem in six months.
It has left more than 400 drug suspects dead, many either in shoot-outs with police or under suspicious circumstances.
More than 4,400 have been arrested.
The unprecedented killings have scared more than half a million drug users and dealers into giving themselves up to police, officials said.
Mr Duterte has said he is considering setting aside some areas in military camps across the country to build rehabilitation centers for those who surrender.
The government’s commission on human rights might seek to stop the anti-crime drive through a court petition, said Free Legal Assistance Group head Jose Manuel Diokno.
He added that the latest shoot-to-kill order was, at the least, legally questionable.