- PHILIPPINE police are blaming the media’s coverage of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) for the apparent decline in popularity of the country’s controversial war on drugs.
Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos said the media’s repeated mentioning of EJKs when Social Weather Stations (SWS) conducted its recent survey on the drug war may have raised the public’s concern over personal safety, the Inquirer reported.
The latest SWS poll conducted between March 25 and 28 showed the public net satisfaction rating of the campaign declining to +66 points from +77 last December.
The survey, according to the Inquirer, also found 73 percent of respondents showed concern they or someone they knew would be caught in the crossfire and become EJK victims. Ninety-two percent said it was important authorities captured drug suspects alive rather than killed them.
Carlos also said the way the questions were formulated may have influenced the answers by respondents.
“If you were asked, ‘Are you afraid to die through EJK’ (given the stories coming out), what would be your normal answer? You would have also been afraid,” he was quoted as saying during a press conference.
Despite the findings, President Rodrigo Duterte’s office has insisted most Filipinos support the campaign.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the administration was viewing the matter from a “bigger perspective”, adding adverse events that took place while the survey was conducted late last month could have played a part.
“Despite all that, the deep appreciation of the Philippines is represented in this survey,” Abella said.
He said there was still a “general sense of safety” among Filipinos despite 73 percent of respondents saying they were concerned about their safety.
The alarming death toll linked to Duterte’s drug war has astounded and shocked many in the international community.
It is currently estimated police and unidentified gunmen together have killed more than 7,000 suspected drug users and dealers.
Police claim to have killed 2,690 people, but this number doesn’t include the drug war victims Duterte calls “collateral damage” – including children killed by stray police bullets, according to Human Rights Watch.
On Thursday, Duterte’s office rejected allegations by two senior policemen in a Reuters report that police received cash rewards for executing drug suspects, while the most high-profile critic of the president backed the officers’ claims.
“There is no truth in the allegation there is a coordinated effort to kill drug suspects,” the president’s office said on Thursday in a written reply to questions from Reuters.
“The so-called officers interviewed must be living movie scenes.”
Senator Leila de Lima, who was arrested in February on drug charges after leading a Senate probe into Duterte’s drug war, said the allegations by the two officers had revealed “the ugly and disturbing truth of what has become” of the Philippines police.
De Lima, who says she is the target of a vendetta, made the comments in a handwritten note from detention inside national police headquarters.
In a Reuters report published on Tuesday, the two officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said PNP officers carried out most of the killings they have long blamed on vigilantes.
One of the men, a retired intelligence officer, authored an unpublished 26-page report that provides granular detail on the alleged methods deployed in the drug war, as well as the campaign’s masterminds and perpetrators. The report, which said it is based on the accounts of 17 serving and former officers, does not contain any documentary evidence.
The president’s office, which said there was “no such report,” said police were “not in the business of hiring assassins.” It also called on the two officers to make their complaints publicly and under oath.
Additional reporting by Reuters