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Philippines: Duterte's announcement on drugs war may be 'short-term PR move'

Rodrigo Duterte has once before said police would be pulled back from the 'war on drugs' © AFP/Getty Images

‘The wave of unlawful killings … will continue even if the shooters happen to be wearing different uniforms’ - James Gomez

Responding to news that the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has reduced the police’s role in the country’s highly controversial ‘war on drugs’ in favour of the Drug Enforcement Agency, James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said:

“Today’s announcement will have little meaningful impact as long as the Duterte government’s fundamental policy of supporting extrajudicial executions of drug suspects remains in place. 

“The wave of unlawful killings, which may constitute crimes against humanity, will continue even if the shooters happen to be wearing different uniforms.

“President Duterte has pulled police off drug operations once before, in January this year, only to reinstate them a few weeks later. 

“We are concerned that this too may be nothing but a short-term PR move in response to growing public outrage about the drug war’s many victims, which are overwhelmingly poor, and include children.

“The Philippines authorities must instead immediately signal a clear shift in policy to an approach that respects and protects human rights, and end its murderous ‘war on drugs’ once and for all. 

“It is also crucial that there is accountability for the thousands of killings carried out already, many by police officers, and that those responsible are held to account.”

Thousands killed in police operations 

In a report earlier this year, Amnesty revealed how the country’s ‘war on drugs’ had involved the Philippines police killing - and paying others to kill - thousands of alleged drug offenders in a huge wave of extrajudicial executions. More than 7,000 people were killed in the so-called ‘drugs war’ in the six months between July 2016 and January 2017 alone. In a single day this August, 32 people were killed by the Philippines police in drug-enforcement operations. 


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