Philippine police ponder different tack
in deadly drugs war
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[October 25, 2016]
By Karen Lema
MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine police
commanders met on Tuesday to evaluate the country's war on drugs, the
president's spokesman said, thrashing out what law enforcement sources
have described as a shift in strategy to increase arrests and cut down
Spokesman Ernesto Abella said a "command conference" was being held to
evaluate "Project Double Barrel", as the narcotics crackdown is called,
to assess whether there was a need to make adjustments to what he
described as a successful campaign.
Reuters reported exclusively on Monday that police chiefs around the
country would be briefed on the new plan. Two sources with knowledge of
the matter said under the plan, dubbed Project Double Barrel Alpha, more
resources would go into arresting prominent people tied to the drugs
trade, such as police, politicians and celebrities.
Intense discussions had previously taken place among law enforcement
officials about the killings of drug suspects under President Rodrigo
Duterte's anti-drugs crusade, one source said.
Abella confirmed the meeting was taking place and said the drugs war had
raised awareness of the "deadly extent" of the problem.
"The purpose of the conference is to assess and if necessary to
recalibrate the campaign," Abella said in a text message responding to
Abella did not elaborate on how the approach might be recalibrated and
said the war on drugs had "always adhered to police action carried out
with caution and regularity, but with single minded determination".
Since his June 30 inauguration, almost 2,300 people have been slain in
Duterte's crackdown, according to police, lower than an earlier estimate
of 3,600. That was revised down after many deaths were found to be
homicides unrelated to drugs.
It is not immediately clear what triggered discussion of a change in
tack, but it follows concerns by Western governments and rights groups
about the high death toll and the circumstances behind many of the
One source who earlier spoke to Reuters under the condition of anonymity
said the rethink was because of "implications of the EJK issue",
referring to extrajudicial killings.
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An investigator hold a tag at the site where a man was killed by
unknown gunmen in Manila, Philippines early October 24, 2016.
Police officials from across the country were in talks at Camp Crame,
the police headquarters north of Manila, and the meeting was still going
on after four hours, according to a Reuters journalist. Attempts to
reach law enforcement officials attending the meeting were unsuccessful.
Duterte initially gave police six months to suppress drugs and
crime, warning the country was on the verge of becoming a "narco
state". He extended the crackdown to make it a year.
He pegged most of his election campaigning to the drugs and crime
problem, tapping into concerns among Filipinos that methamphetamine
usage was tearing apart families and causing crime rates to balloon.
"This is a problem hidden all these years. Until I became president
and squeezed it all out," Duterte said in a speech in Manila on
Earlier this month, a prosecutor at the Hague-based International
Criminal Court said the tribunal may have jurisdiction to prosecute
perpetrators of thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings in the
Most deaths - more than 1,600 - were during police operations,
drawing sharp international criticism and in turn, inflammatory
rebukes by Duterte of U.S. President Barack Obama, the United
Nations and the European Union, among others.
Speaking to the Filipino community upon arrival in Japan on Tuesday,
Duterte took a swipe at his foreign critics and invited anyone who
could prove his wrongdoing to take him on. He said he was willing to
"rot in jail" for the Filipino people.
"If you have the evidence go ahead and file the case," he said. "I
am not a Filipino for nothing. You do not fuck with our dignity."
(Writing by Martin Petty. Editing by Bill Tarrant.)
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