Anti-drug squads in the Philippines have executed 32 people in 24 hours, marking the bloodiest day in the country's "war on drugs." Duterte praised the killings, calling on the police to kill "another 32 everyday."
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's unrelenting "war on drugs" raged on, as police on Monday night launched one of the most aggressive anti-drug operations yet.
Thirty-two drug suspects were killed in 24 hours in a series of "shock and awe" raids carried out across the Bulacan region, north of the capital of Manila. Another 109 suspects were detained, mostly petty street-level peddlers, according to provincial police.
Duterte praised the operation on Wednesday in a speech to an anti-crime volunteer group. "Let's kill another 32 everyday, maybe we can reduce what ails this country," the president said.
The Bulacan province's police chief, Romeo Caramat, told a news conference on Wednesday: "We have conducted 'one-time, big-time' operations in the past, so far, the number of casualties and deaths, this is the highest."
"Other drug personalities will think twice before continuing with their drug trade," he added.
Caramat also defended the deadly police force, claiming that the killings came during shoot-outs and that his officers had acted in self-defense. He denied claims that officers were executing suspects, as activists have repeatedly alleged. "We know we have done nothing wrong," he said.
However, according to the Agence France Presse news agency, Caramat later told them that no police officer had been killed or wounded in the raid. When asked how it was possible that no policemen where wounded while killing 32 people in self-defense, the police chief reportedly dismissed the question, saying "don't ask me to explain."
Duterte ramps up war on drugs
Duterte won last year's presidential election by landslide, namely on the back of his vow to eradicate his country's drug problems by killing tens of thousands of drug traffickers and addicts.
In the roughly 14 months since becoming president, Duterte had led an aggressive anti-drug campaign that has seen more than 3,000 suspects killed, according to official statistics. However, another 11,000 murders remain unresolved, with police trying to determine whether the deaths were related to illegal drugs and carried out by hired or vigilante killers.
Despite his campaign promises, Duterte admitted last week that he may not be able to deliver on his pledge within six years, the constitutional limit a politician can serve as president. However, that admission appears to have only spurred the president to ramp up his campaign.
The brutality of the drug crackdown, which is mostly concentrated in poorer neighborhoods, has alarmed the international community and prompted condemnation. However, responding to criticisms from rights group on Wednesday, Duterte complained that they in part were undermining his campaign, adding that he would have them investigated, or worse. "If they are obstructing justice, shoot them," he said.
dm/kms (Reuters, dpa, AFP)