MALACANANG has branded as “false news” recent reports citing police numbers allegedly showing the death toll in the Philippine drug war to have surged past 9,000.
Local media quoted presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella denying the claim and insisting the actual data was a mere fraction of that.
“On the number of extrajudicial deaths, the persistent news reports of 7,000 killed, which is now being said to be close to 9,000 is false news,” he was quoted by Inquirer as saying in a statement.
He said Philippine National Police (PNP) numbers show the total number of deaths recorded between July 1, 2016, and March 24, 2017, were 6,011.
Of the total, he said only 1,398 cases were drug-related.
This, Abella pointed out, was a far cry from the 9,000 figure being bandied about in foreign media reports.
On Thursday, US deputy assistant secretary of state for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy was quoted in several reports as saying the United States shared Manila’s objective of wiping out the illicit drug trade and wanted to help.
He added, however, that the US was also deeply concerned over the growing number of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines and talk that the fight to eliminate the drug scourge is taking placed “outside the rule of law”.
A Reuters report on Murphy’s remarks said police data issued this month showed nearly 9,000 people, most of them drug users and dealers, have met their end since President Rodrigo Duterte took office some 10 months ago.
Duterte, who won the presidency on an anti-drugs platform, has since coming to power remained steadfast in his pledge to rid his country’s streets of the drug menace.
Responding to Murphy, Abella reportedly insisted that local authorities follow “operational protocols” when carrying out the government’s war on drugs.
“We share the concern of US Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy, who has been quoted in the media saying that ‘there are elements of the drug war that are operating outside the rule of law’,” he said.
“Local authorities follow operational protocols and the proper enforcement of our laws requires the use of reasonable force merited by the attendant circumstances,” he added.
He also gave his assurance that those who acted outside their scope of power would face appropriate action.
“Those who breach procedures are made to answer before the law. The Philippine National Police has an Internal Affairs Service (IAS) tasked to probe police accused of such violations,” he said.
He urged for fairness amid widespread concern over the Philippines’ drug war, saying those judging from afar should consider the views of Filipinos who want to see their country prosper.
“We expect fairness and not a rush to judgment. Right now the people appreciate the changes and the way these are carried out,” he said, according to Sun Star.
“We ask to be understood not just from a single perspective, but from the point of view of Filipinos who desire change, stability and fairness.”