(Manila) – The new head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) should urgently address police involvement in “drug war” killings and other abuses, Human Rights Watch said in a June 11, 2018 letter to Director General Oscar Albayalde. The police chief, who assumed command of the PNP in April, should permit independent investigations into these abuses and ensure that all police officers responsible for extrajudicial executions and other crimes are held accountable.
Human Rights Watch called on Albayalde to launch credible investigations into killings linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs,” during which more than 12,000 people have been killed. The government has confirmed a total of 4,279 deaths during police operations from July 1, 2016, to May 21, 2018. Human Rights Watch also urged Albayalde to address the increasing scourge of “riding-in-tandem killings” – killings committed by motorcycle-riding gunmen who have often been linked to local officials and police.
“Director General Albayalde’s fundamental challenge is to transform the Philippine National Police from deadly predators to genuine protectors of public safety and rule of law,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. “Albayalde should demonstrate that he’s serious about ‘respect for human rights’ by stopping summary killings by police and bringing those responsible to justice.”
Human Rights Watch also urged Albayalde to take all necessary action to prevent human rights abuses by police personnel; to ensure prompt, transparent, and impartial investigations of alleged rights abuses in which police are implicated; and to take appropriate action to ensure that officers who commit abuses are appropriately held to account. Research by Human Rights Watch found that many drug-war killings were summary executions in which police or their agents planted weapons and drugs on bodies and then claimed the victims had “fought back.” No one has been held to account for these deaths.
Human Rights Watch also highlighted the deadly toll of “riding-in-tandem” attacks by motorcycle-riding gunmen. Police data indicates that 880 people have been shot dead in such attacks between October 2017 and May 2018, but that police have arrested only 63 suspects. Albayalde should undertake a thorough and transparent investigation of possible police complicity in these “death squads” and publicly disavow the use of death squads as a legitimate “crime-control” strategy.
“Albayalde has a clear choice: ignore murderous abuses by the Philippine National Police or take decisive action to challenge its culture of impunity and begin restoring public trust in law enforcement,” Kine said. “The Philippines needs a professional, rights-respecting police force now more than ever.”