PHILIPPINE police have arrested 24,197 suspects in more than 18,000 anti-illegal drug raids this year, according to authorities.
Police had seized P6.05 billion ($110 million) worth of illegal drugs as of May 27, national police chief General Benjamin C. Acorda, Jr. told a livestreamed news briefing on Monday. He did not say how many died.
He added that the agency would continue investigating cops to ensure they remain clean. “We will continue vetting and investigating the backgrounds of our drug enforcement officers to make sure that none of them turn to the wrong path,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.
Earlier this month, Interior Secretary Benjamin C. Abalos, Jr. said a five-man advisory panel had recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against four senior police officers over their alleged ties to the illegal drug trade.
He earlier called on all colonels and generals to resign after a probe found many top police officers were involved in illegal drugs. Almost a thousand senior police officers had submitted their courtesy resignations, Mr. Abalos told a news briefing on May 8.
The five-man advisory panel is composed of former national police chief Rodolfo S. Azurin, Jr., former police officer now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong, ex-Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro, retired police Major General R. Nerez and retired Court of Appeals Associate Justice Melchor Quirino C. Sadang.
At least 25 police officers have been charged with murder in connection with ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla told the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council in November. An inter-agency task force on extralegal killings investigated at least 17,000 cops.
The Philippines has accepted more than 200 recommendations from the United Nations Human Rights Council, including investigating extralegal killings and protecting journalists.
Police seized P30.9 billion worth of illegal drugs in 37,000 raids last year, the presidential palace said in February, citing a Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency report. More than 53,000 drug suspects were arrested during the raids.
The Interior and Local Government department on May 7 declared at least 17 municipalities in the Zamboanga Peninsula in southern Philippines drug-free.
Earlier this month, the agency partnered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), along with the Department of Health to reduce illegal-drug use and demand at the local level.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in January reopened its probe of Mr. Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, saying it was not satisfied with the government’s efforts to probe human rights abuses.
ICC Prosecutor Karim Ahmad A. Khan said last month that the crimes committed during the drug war were condoned by the Duterte government.
“Nothing about these crimes, committed in large part by law enforcement personnel entrusted with protecting citizens from violence, suggests that the potential cases before the court are of marginal gravity,” he said in response to the Philippines’ appeal to suspend the probe.
The government estimates that at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers were killed in police operations. Human rights groups say as many as 30,000 suspects died. — John Victor D. Ordoñez