Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte has marked a year in power with 5,000 people killed and 80,000 arrested in his brutal war on drugs.
The outspoken politician took power at the end of June last year vowing to halt substance abuse and lawlessness that he saw as ‘symptoms of virulent social disease’.
Government officials claim that crime has dropped because of his campaign with thousands of drug dealers behind bars.
They say that a million users have also registered for treatment and future generations of Filipinos are being protected.
Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde said: ‘There are thousands of people who are being killed, yes. There are millions who live, see?’
Rodrigo Duterte took power at the end of June last year vowing to halt substance abuse and lawlessness that he saw as ‘symptoms of virulent social disease.’
In the first 11 months of Duterte’s rule, police say 3,155 suspects were shot dead in anti-drug operations
In the first 11 months of Duterte’s rule, police say 3,155 suspects were shot dead in anti-drug operations.
Police say they have investigated a further 2,000 drug-related killings, and have yet to identify a motive in at least another 7,000 murders and homicides.
But a growing chorus of critics including human rights activists, lawyers and the country’s influential Catholic Church dispute the authorities’ claims of success.
They say police have summarily executed drug suspects with impunity, terrorising poorer communities and exacerbating the lawlessnesss.
In the Navotas fishing district there were nine killings in a single night earlier this month.
Local resident Mary Joy Royo said a dozen gunmen arrived on motorbikes and abducted her mother and stepfather.
Their corpses were found later with execution-style gunshots to the head and torso.
She said: ‘They should be targeting the drug lords. The victims of the drug war are the poor people.’
Critics say police have summarily executed drug suspects with impunity, terrorising poorer communities and exacerbating the lawlessnesss.
It is claimed the death toll is far above the 5,000 that police have identified as either drug-related killings or suspects shot dead during police operations
A customs police officer shows a package containing crystal methhidden in candy wrappers during a press conference at the Bureau of Customs’ office at the Manila airport in March
Filipino priest Amado Picardal said: ‘This president behaves as if he is above the law – that he is the law. He has ignored the rule of law and human rights.’
Critics say the death toll is far above the 5,000 that police have identified as either drug-related killings or suspects shot dead during police operations.
Most victims are small-time users and dealers while the masterminds behind the lucrative drug trade are largely unknown and at large, it is claimed.
In October, the Hague-based International Criminal Court said it could investigate the killings if they were ‘committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.’
Police operations were halted for much of February after it emerged that anti-drug police abducted and killed a South Korean businessman last year, but the outcry over the rising body count has rarely slowed the killing or led to prosecutions.
The Philippine Commission on Human Rights is investigating 680 drug-war killings.
Activists scuffle with police during a protest against Duterte’s brutal war on drugs in February
Jose Felipe Mesias, 60, touches the casket of his son who went missing last January. Police barged into his house and commanded him to sign a paper saying he is a drug surrenderee and he then found out that his son was dead
Duterte supporters gather during a vigil backing the drugs crackdown in Manila in February
Chito Gascon, the commission’s chairman, said: ‘In this country the basic problem is impunity. No one is ever held to account for the worst violations. Ever.’
Police chief Albayalde says that the force’s Internal Affairs Service (IAS) investigates all allegations of abuse by his officers.
He added: ‘We do not tolerate senseless killings. We do not just kill anybody.’
Indeed, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s own data suggests crystal meth has become even cheaper in Manila.
In July 2016, a gram of the substance cost 1,200-11,000 pesos (£19-£172), according to official figures – while last month a gram cost 1,000-15,000 pesos (£16-£234).
Gloria Lai of the International Drug Policy Consortium said: ‘If prices have fallen, it’s an indication that enforcement actions have not been effective.
Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao last month after militants inspired by Islamic State stormed Marawi City, and the army’s failure to retake the city quickly has dented the president’s image as a law-and-order president.
Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao last month after militants inspired by Islamic State stormed Marawi City. Pictured are Philippine troops on patrol
Military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said around 500 civilians remained trapped in areas where the fighting is concentrated
About 500 gunmen aligned with ISIS, including several foreigners, stormed the lakeside city of 200,000 people, occupied buildings, burned schools and hoisted black flags on May 23.
The fighting has forced more than 300,000 people to abandon their homes in Marawi and outlying towns and flee to evacuation centers, which rapidly became overcrowded, making it difficult for them to celebrate the Eid el-Fitr holiday.
An eight-hour ceasefire allowing residents to celebrate the end of Ramadan came to an abrupt end on Sunday afternoon.
Assaults backed by air and artillery bombardment had stopped at the start of Islamic prayers at 6am but gunfire broke out as soon as the truce ended at around 2pm.
Regional military commander Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez said the truce also allowed five Muslim religious leaders to enter ground zero and negotiate with the militants to release civilian hostages, especially children, women and the elderly.
Galvez said: ‘It’s already been more than 30 days (of fighting) and we received reports that some of them have nothing to eat.’
The negotiators later Sunday emerged from the conflict zone with five civilians, incuding a mother and her 16-month-old daughter.
The fighting has forced more than 300,000 people to abandon their homes in Marawi
Military officials have said troops are having difficulty because the militants are using civilians as human shields
Nearly 300 militants and 67 troops have been killed in the fighting, according to official figures
The woman said she had given birth to another child just two weeks ago in the middle of the fighting but her infant boy died due to lack of food, according to police who interviewed her.
A video released by the military showed the rescued residents looking terrified, pale and haggard.
Military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said around 500 civilians remained trapped in areas where the fighting is concentrated.
Nearly 300 militants and 67 troops have been killed in the fighting, according to official figures.
Military officials have said troops are having difficulty because the militants are using civilians as human shields.
Foreign fighters, including those from Chechnya, Indonesia and Malaysia, are among those killed in the Marawi conflict.
Foreign fighters, including those from Chechnya, Indonesia and Malaysia, are among those killed in the Marawi conflict
An eight-hour ceasefire allowing residents to celebrate the end of Ramadan came to an abrupt end on Sunday afternoon
A senior military commander said on Saturday that Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Marawi attack and one of America’s most wanted terrorists, may have slipped out of the city.
Regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera said Sunday the military was still checking the report.
‘He (Hapilon) is not being heard or monitored commanding troops on the ground,’ Herrera said in Marawi.
Australia has sent two high-tech surveillance planes to help Filipino troops in Marawi, joining the United States in providing military assistance.