THE ongoing crackdown on the drugs trade in the Philippines has seen the arrests of 74,650 suspects so far, according to state media.
The Philippine News Agency, a web-based newswire service of the government, also revealed in its Friday report that a total of 2,999 drug suspects have died in police operations, while 41 others died “on the side of law enforcement agencies”.
The report said between July 1, 2016, after President Rodrigo Duterte came to power, and May 17, 2017, local enforcers have conducted 58,751 anti-drug operations.
It added that 158 police officers found to be drug users have been dismissed from service, while a further 168 other cases are still being investigated.
Philippine National Police (PNP) deputy director-general Ramon Apolinario said the country’s drug menace remains a major concern and that accurate information concerning the drug war was crucial.
”As members of government, we make sure to provide accurate, not the rounding off, but exact and timely information to the members of the media and the populace. Even sometimes putting ourselves in the most inconvenient situations.
“So far, we believe that government communications have done a good job in keeping the public informed of the true situation as far as illegal drugs,” Apolinario was quoted saying.
The government’s numbers on the number of drug-related deaths in the crackdown vastly differs from that reported in the media.
Reports from last month claimed the death toll had surged past 9,000, with most deaths allegedly at the hands of police officers, while others were said to have been killed by vigilante groups.
The presidential palace, however, has branded the information as “false news”.
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.
His heavy-handed and even brutal methods have triggered widespread condemnation from rights groups who accuse the leader of committing crimes against humanity.
Despite this, however, the intrepid leader enjoys loyal support from his countrymen, many who say they can see the positive effect his policies have on their streets and in their neighbours.