PNP: No reason to fear return to ‘chilling’ drug war

Rambo Talabong
PNP: No reason to fear return to ‘chilling’ drug war
To recall, the early days of Duterte's drug war are marked by almost nightly killings, the dumping of bodies, and suspects slain for 'fighting back'

MANILA, Philippines –  For cops, there is no fear in a chilling drug war.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Tuesday, July 24, announced their pleasure that President Rodrigo Duterte vowed in his annual state address that the anti-drug campaign would be as “relentless” and “chilling” as when it began.

“There is no reason to express apprehension over the renewed ‘relentless and chilling’ continuation of the anti-illegal drugs campaign,” PNP Spokesman Senior Superintendent Benigno Durana said in a text message to reporters.

“We take it to mean that our operations must be without let-up to effectively establish the ‘certainty of punishment’ to the drug syndicates, its patrons, protectors, and criminal support systems that sustain the drug trade,” he added.

Throwback: The so-called “war on drugs” commenced right after Duterte assumed office on July 30, 2016.

As the President has acknowledged himself, it was both relentless and chilling, marked by almost nightly vigilante-style shootings and the rise of killings during police operations. Lifeless bodies marked as drug suspects were also scattered anywhere almost nightly. (READ: The Impunity Series)

The suspects were shot down, cops repeatedly said, because they fought back. Even visits where cops were only tasked to plead with drug suspects to surrender ended in bloodshed. Those visited also retaliated, cops said.

Human rights and media investigations, however, have pointed to cops shooting drug suspects even if they were ready to submit. The unrelenting anti-drug campaign, in fact, has been suspended twice over drug-related killings.


Why the war is supported: Despite the fiascos, the campaign has enjoyed constant support—rooted in the steady decline in crimes, save for homicides, since hardline president Duterte assumed office.

“We are inspired to work even harder by the latest public opinion poll that found 69% of Filipinos recognize the anti-illegal drugs campaign as the ‘most important achievement’ of the 2-year old Duterte administration,” Durana said.

Relentless just in law enforcement? As of June 30, 2018, the PNP counts killings committed by cops in drug busts to stand at 4,540.

Human rights advocates, however, peg at 20,000 all murders made in the name of Duterte’s drug war, which includes vigilante-style slays suspected to be committed by police themselves.

Aside from kilings, police also count almost 150,000 people arrested and over 1,250,000 surrenderers. The numbers continue to soar, leaving courts, detention centers, and rehabilitation facilities struggling to keep up. (READ: No ‘real number’ on drug rehab: Here’s why)

It is unclear whether the President’s pronouncement would translate into additional policies in the PNP. Just in June, Duterte ordered cops to arrest loiterers, which the PNP took to mean as arresting people who violate local government ordinances. –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.