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Death toll rising in Philippines' war on drugs
02:36 - Source: CNN

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Police chief: List based on "pure" intelligence reports

"Either they are drug lords themselves or are drug protectors," police chief says

Camp Crame, Quezon City, the Philippines CNN  — 

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has another list of officials he says are connected to the drug trade, the national police chief said.

Duterte will release the names of “police officers, politicians (and) prosecutors” who have ties to the illegal drug trade, national police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa told CNN’s Ivan Watson.

The President is the only one who knows when the list will be made public and how many names are on it, Dela Rosa said.

“Either they are drug lords themselves or are drug protectors,” he said.

 Ronald Dela Rosa speaks to one of his officers in his office at the police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Dela Rosa said the list is based on “pure” intelligence reports validated by intelligence units of the Philippines national police, the nation’s drug enforcement agency and the country’s military.

Duterte, who took office at the end of June, has aggressively pursued an anti-crime agenda – with a special focus on ridding the country of illegal drugs.

Drugs threaten national security

Dela Rosa says he and the President consider drugs to be the “number one” threat to national security.

Earlier this month, Duterte read out the names of more than 150 officials who he says are implicated in the drug trade. He’s come under fire for the so-called “name and shame” tactic by critics who say it violates the principle of presumed innocence.

Dela Rosa said he agrees it contradicts the principle that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty, but the President feels it is his “duty” to inform the public of the identities of corrupt officials.

In a speech Wednesday to police officers on the 115th anniversary of the founding of the Philippines’ police force, Duterte refrained from naming names but said that the fight against drugs would continue “unrelenting until we have destroyed the apparatus operating in the entire country.

“A lot of bleeding hearts, including senators of the republic, are complaining about the death rate in the fight against drugs,” he said in the speech.

He reiterated that his officers had the right to use deadly force in self-defense.

“If the resistance is violent thereby placing your life in jeopardy, shoot and shoot him dead. Can I be more clear than that?”

In a typically unstructured speech, Duterte said: “Just be careful with me because when I say I will (protect) my country, I will do it even if I have to kill you or be killed in the process. I will not allow anyone to destroy my country.”

Judge dead for years on list

The policy was cast into even starker light when the name of a judge who died eight years ago was read out during the previous televised speech in August.

Dela Rosa said even though the intelligence appeared to include at least one long-dead official, the judge belonged on the list because of his past crimes.

He said he could vouch for the national police intelligence, but not that of other agencies.

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized the Duterte administration’s heavy-handed approach and say the methods apparently sanctioned by the government have resulted in hundreds of extrajudicial killings.

‘Kill list’

The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s “Kill List,” regarded as one of the most accurate records of the killings of suspected drug dealers in police engagements and by vigilantes, recorded the deaths of 693 people suspected of drug crimes between June 30, the day Duterte assumed office, and August 15.

Dela Rosa is due to appear before the country’s senate next week for hearings on the spate of killings. He said 600 people have been killed by police during “legitimate drug operations.”

Hundreds of thousands more drug users have voluntarily registered with their local neighborhood councils under an informal policy implemented nationwide by Dela Rosa, who was appointed by Duterte in July after the new administration assumed office.

When they register, the drug users are essentially surrendering to their local councils and are offered a rehabilitation program. But critics of the crackdown say the civil liberties of those surrendering are being ignored, and the policy amounts to a de facto arrest that targets poor Filipinos. Dela Rosa argues the policy does not violate citizens’ rights.

Duterte enjoys incredibly high approval ratings, including 91% in one July poll. Dela Rosa attributes the high ratings to ordinary Filipinos’ frustration with high crime rates and his tough stance on the issue.