MANILA, Philippines – A little over a week after the Philippine National Police (PNP) pulled out of President Rodrigo Duterte's popular but controversial war on drugs, Manila police nabbed 3 alleged members of a vigilante group that targeted suspected criminals in Tondo, Manila.
In a press conference on Thursday, February 9, PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said the 3 were allegedly part of a group behind several cases of vigilante-style killings.
The 3 – all members of a civilian organization created to assist police in anti-criminality efforts – were proof, Dela Rosa insisted, that some people were "riding on" the war on drugs, an assertion that he has made before.
The PNP used to be the lead organization in Duterte's crackdown on narcotics.
By the time the President ordered them to stop all anti-drug operations, the PNP tallied over 7,000 deaths linked to the drug war.
Over 2,500 drug suspects were killed by police in anti-drug operations while a bigger number involved vigilante-style killings termed "deaths under investigation (DUIs)."
A DUI case led to the arrest of the 3, namely:
During the arrest on Wednesday, February 8, Manila police seized from the suspects various firearms with calibers .38 and 9mm, improvised firearms, different ammunition, a sword, and several cellular phones.
"Further investigation reveals that the armed group, also known as the Confederate Sentinels Group (CSG) was engaged in extortion of garbage collector, series of killings in Tondo," read a release from the Manila police.
On January 2, Cristina Saladaga found the lifeless body of her son, 16-year-old Charlie, inside a sack floating near Isla Puting Bato in Tondo.
The Saladagas initially did not want to file a formal complaint "for fear of reprisal," according to the Manila Police District (MPD) report, but later on did so because the suspects "confronted [Charlie's] parents and threatened them at gunpoint."
On February 8, Cristina Saladaga reported the crime to MPD personnel, resulting in the arrest of the 3 the same day.
Police have long been accused of resorting to extra-legal means in the name of the drug war. Dela Rosa denied these allegations, saying he presumed regularity in all police operations.
That narrative changed, however, when police were alleged to have kidnapped and murdered a South Korean businessman in the guise of an anti-drug operation.
Last week, human rights group Amnesty International said in a report on the war on drugs that Philippine police were being paid to kill drug suspects and even went as far as using guns-for-hire to murder drug personalities.
The PNP has denied the allegations. – Rappler.com