guardian | At the Philippines national police headquarters, even the police themselves admit active officers could be behind a number of the vigilante killings. A police briefing document on project Double Barrel shows that from 1 July to 16 August, 250 officers were relieved from their duties in metro Manila because of suspected links to the drug trade.
But any official relationship between police and vigilantes – such as the one described by the officer to the Guardian – are denied.
The Philippine National Police was contacted on numerous occasions by the Guardian to comment on the allegations detailed in this story. Although they did acknowledge requests from the Guardian regarding the matter, no official comment was forthcoming.
But the previous responses from Duterte himself to allegations of involvement in death squads have been strong.
He has called them lies and “accusations of a madman” and previously stated that there were “no Davao death squads”.
Martin Andanar, Duterte’s communications secretary, said of the Davao allegations: “The Commission on Human Rights already conducted an investigation years ago, when the president was still a mayor, and charges were not filed, they did not see any direct evidence.”
When contacted by the Guardian to respond to the specific allegations of the police officer, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said he was unable to comment.
“I cannot make any comments regarding that,” he said. “There are so-called sources and we cannot verify what they are saying, they have not made an affidavit. I cannot make any statement because it is not verified.”
For Arsenio “Boy” Evangelista Jr, spokesman for the group Victims against Crime and Corruption, the denials and no comments mean little.
“Who would have the skills and the guts to do this?” he says when he talks about the mass killings.
“I am talking of police skills, all the skills, like intelligence, proficiency in handling firearms,” says Evangelista, who six years after his son was killed in a brutal crime is still waiting for someone to be charged. “Because that’s what is happening lately. It’s practically perfect. No witnesses – it is being done very accurate, swift.”
At the Philippines Commission on Human Rights, Chito Gascon, its chairman, is asked about the allegations of police acting as judge, jury and executioner. He too is unfazed.
“I am not surprised, I have heard of this. But the problem is we need to prove it.
“And it probably follows a playbook that has been used before, like in Davao.”
Gascon says he is grappling with the new president’s apparent take on human rights: if you’re a good guy, you get them; if you’re a bad guy, you don’t.
It’s a slippery slope but this appears to be the logic at the heart of the surge in killings: the justification necessary to rid the country of the scourge of drugs and crime, the end that justifies the means.