MANILA, Aug. 23 (UPI) — The number of drug suspects killed by police is rising because they are refusing to surrender, the country’s top police chief said Tuesday at a Senate hearing.
Ronald Dela Rosa, who is in charge of the Philippines’ deadly anti-drug war, said in the hearing since President Rodrigo Duterte took office after June 30, 756 were suspects killed by police and 1,160 were killed “outside police operations,” many of them vigilantes. Not all the killings were drug-related, he said.
Some of the deaths could have been prevented, he said.
“If they did not fight it out with police, they would be alive,” said Dela Rosa.
Duterte wants his government to go after drug dealers and has given police the authority to shoot to kill.
Dela Rosa said police were following established procedures and haven’t been ordered to kill drug dealers.
“We are not butchers,” he said.
Some elected officials said some suspects should have a chance to defend themselves in court and not be shot dead on sight.
Two Senate committees are looking into rising deaths: Justice and Human Rights and the Public Order and Dangerous Drugs.
On Monday, lawmakers heard testimony from Mary Rose Aquino. She said her parents were police informants killed by corrupt officers who took drugs for themselves. On Tuesday, Dela Rosa said he had suspended five officers connected with that case as it’s investigated.
Police officers also have been on the other side of the law. Eleven rogue police officers were killed in police operations and 130 officers tested positive for drug use, he said.
Dela Rose said officers are also victims. Nine police operatives and three soldiers have already been killed, and 25 wounded during anti-drug operations, he said, citing national police statistics.
“Our own people are also victims, they are also killed. This is just to illustrate that there is indeed a clear danger on the lives of our men in the operations against illegal drugs,” Dela Rosa said.
On Tuesday, Dela Rosa said the numbers of deaths increase by 137 from the 1,879 figure he gave Monday.
“As I was presenting yesterday there were people killed,” said.