The apparent extrajudicial executions by Philippine police of two children over a three-day period underscores the need for a United Nations inquiry into President Rodrigo Duterte’s abusive “war on drugs,” Human Rights Watch said today. While several dozen children under 18 have died in drug war-related killings since June 2016, circumstances suggest that the Philippine National Police (PNP) deliberately targeted the two children.“The apparent willingness of Philippine police to deliberately target children for execution marks an appalling new level of depravity in this so-called drug war,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. “These killings demonstrate that Duterte’s rejection of the rule of law has made all Filipinos potential ‘drug-war’ victims, no matter how young.”
On September 6, 2017, a passerby spotted the body of Reynaldo de Guzman, a 14-year-old Grade 5 student from Pasig City, floating in a creek, 20 days after he was reported missing. A pathologist report indicates that de Guzman died from at least 30 stab wounds after his assailants wrapped his head in packing tape. Packing tape has been a gruesome hallmark of many drug-war killings under Duterte. De Guzman had last been seen alive on August 18 in the company of his friend Carl Angelo Arnaiz, 19, who the police shot to death later that day after they accused him of robbing a taxi driver in Manila’s Caloocan City.
Two days earlier, on August 16, police anti-drug officers in Caloocan City killed 17-year-old Kian delos Santos. Police said they shot delos Santos after he fired on them during an anti-drug operation. However, both witness accounts and close circuit television camera footageindicate that police executed an unarmed delos Santos while he was in police custody and dumped his body in an alley.
The killings of delos Santo and de Guzman bring to at least 54 the number of children killed by police and “unidentified gunmen” in the “war on drugs” since July 2016, according to data from the Children's Legal Rights and Development Center. Most of those children had been shot while in the company of adults who were the apparent target of the shooting. Both Duterte and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II have dismissed those killings as “collateral damage.”
Duterte’s government has also imperiled children by approving a plan for mandatory drug testing for all college students and applicants. The order permits local governments, the police, and other law enforcement agencies to “carry out any drug-related operation within the school premises” with the approval of school administrators. This will effectively allow the police to extend their abusive anti-drug operations to college and university campuses, placing students at grave risk.
A public uproar over the killings of delos Santos and de Guzman has prompted Duterte, the Justice Department, and the Philippine National Police to promise thorough investigations into their deaths. In August, the Public Attorney’s Office filed murder and torture chargesagainst the police officers implicated in the delos Santos killing. But on September 8, Duterte described de Guzman’s killing as a deliberate act of “sabotage” to “discredit” the police.
There are major concerns about the willingness and capacity of the Philippine authorities to conduct thorough, impartial, and transparent investigations into drug war-related killings. In July, police officials allowed the police officers facing homicide charges in the 2016 killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. to return to work.
The officers were reinstated even though twin inquiries by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine Senate reached the conclusion that the officers had committed “premeditated murder” when they shot Espinosa to death in a Manila jail cell on November 5, 2016. Espinosa had surrendered to the police following public accusations by President Duterte that he was a drug trafficker. Both investigations rejected the officers’ assertion that Espinosa died in a firefight in his cell after brandishing a concealed pistol.
Duterte has also systematically sought to vilify, harass, and intimidate those carrying out domestic and international accountability efforts that have challenged his drug war. The targets of the harassment campaign include human rights organizations and activists, lawyers, United Nations officials, journalists, and Philippine lawmakers.
Concerted action by the UN Human Rights Council to address Duterte’s abusive drug war is crucial. The council should press the Philippines government to accept an independent international investigation into all allegations of extrajudicial killings and to hold those responsible to account. The council should also press the government to cooperate with the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, grant unfettered and unconditional access to the rapporteur, and immediately stop all official incitement and instigation of drug war killings.
“A fundamental obligation of every government is to protect the lives of its children, not to empower police and their agents to murder them,” Kine said. “Until Duterte ends his abusive drug war and allows a UN-led international probe, child-killers among the police will continue to get away with murder.”
Published on HRW on September 9, 2017.
By Michael Bueza
As of January 31, 2017, there have been over 7,000 deaths, both from legitimate police operations and vigilante-style or unexplained killings.
Exasperated by the illegal drugs menace in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte has waged an all-out campaign against it since he assumed office.
From July 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017, there have been over 7,000 deaths linked to the "war on drugs" – both from legitimate police operations and vigilante-style or unexplained killings (including deaths under investigation).
Here are the latest numbers based on revised data from the Philippine National Police (PNP). This page will be updated regularly.
total number of people killed in #WarOnDrugs since July 1, 2016
suspected drug personalities killed in police operations, as of January 31, 2017
victims in cases of deaths under investigation, as of January 9, 2017
victims in cases where investigation has concluded, as of January 9, 2017
As of 6 am of September 14, the number of suspects killed in police operations reached 1,506. But during a Senate probe on extrajudicial killings that day, PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa said that after validation by its Directorate for Operations, the figure was corrected to only 1,105 deaths.
'Double Barrel' and 'TokHang'
The PNP calls its campaign against illegal drugs "Oplan Double Barrel." (READ: Warning to drug dealers: PNP has 'double barrel' plan)
Meanwhile, Project "TokHang" – a contraction of "toktok" and "hangyo" (Visayan words for "knock" and "request" respectively) – refers to the strategy of the police nationwide to go house-to-house in their jurisdictions and convince known drug pushers and users to surrender and change their ways.
On October 26, the PNP launched Phase 2 of Oplan Double Barrel. After this, the statistics that the PNP started sending to media were "reset" to zero. For this purpose, figures from Phase 2 of Oplan Double Barrel were added to the final figures of Phase 1 as of October 26.
But on November 2, the PNP returned to its cumulative count.
Data below is as of January 31, 2017, 6 am.
number of police operations conducted
drug personalities arrested
houses visited via Project Tokhang
total number of surrenders in Project Tokhang
- 79,349 pushers
- 1,110,113 users
EJKs, deaths under investigation
The PNP also records reports of extrajudicial, vigilante-style, or unexplained killings. Many of these cases are still being investigated by the police.
Data below is as of January 9, 2017.
number of murder cases outside police operations
number of cases/incidents of deaths under investigation
number of cases/incidents with investigation concluded; among these:
- 543 are w/ suspects arrested
- 332 are w/ suspects at large
Police, military casualties
Revised data below is as of January 30, 2017.
police personnel killed during operations
(including 13 for validation)
AFP personnel killed in action
police personnel wounded during operations
(including 10 for validation)
AFP personnel wounded in action
As of October 15, the number of policemen killed during operations stood at 13, while there were 40 wounded.
On October 19, deaths among police personnel rose to 15, while the number of wounded was revised to 36 after validation. The PNP broke down the casualties between drug-related and non-drug-related incidents, then reported only the drug-related casualties afterwards (7 dead, 24 wounded).
As of November 7, they returned to reporting all police casualties. (Related EXPLAINER: How serious is the PH drug problem? Here's the data)
On January 30, PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa ordered a stop to police-initiated anti-illegal drug operations, thereby ending Oplan Tokhang and related activities like buy-busts and the service of search warrants.
This is in accordance with President Duterte's pronouncement to "cleanse the police ranks" first after the PNP came under fire for the killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo in October 2016.
This article was originally published on Rappler's website in September 2016 and updated on January 31, 2017.