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Police paid $400 a head for killings in Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs: report

Sydney Morning Herald - February 1, 2017

Lindsay Murdoch Rogue Philippine police are recruiting paid killers and abducting, framing, extorting and murdering thousands of people under the cover of President Rodrigo Duterte's so-called war on drugs, according to an investigation by Amnesty International.

Police in the capital Manila are being given a bounty of up to $US300 ($400) a head for each accused drugs suspect killed in the crackdown that has left more than 7000 people dead since June 30, when Mr Duterte took office, according to an experienced frontline police officer.

Witnesses also said that police enrich themselves further by stealing from victims' homes and through a racket they have established with funeral homes.

"We get paid by the encounter... the amount ranges from 8000 pesos ($212) to 15,000 pesos ($400). That amount is per head," the police officer told Amnesty. "We're paid in cash, secretly by headquarters... there's no incentive for arresting."

Two paid killers also told how they take orders from a police officer who pays them 5000 pesos for each drug user killed and between 10,000 pesos and 15,000 pesos for each drug pusher killed.

The release of the investigation detailing how police are targeting mostly poor and defenceless Filipinos comes after Panfilo Lacson, a former national police chief and member of Mr Duterte's ruling coalition, broke ranks and publicly expressed concern about the police force, which was already known as one of the country's most corrupt institutions.

"It is hard for the all-out war on drugs to succeed because we have a problem with members of the police taking advantage," Senator Lacson said.

"They know the president is mad at drugs, very passionate and ordinary policemen are carried away hearing him say he has signed their pardon and they will believe that," he said.

Another senator, Risa Hontiveros, said the crackdown has "opened a Pandora's box of pure evil".

Seven months after Mr Duterte encouraged police to kill drugs suspects in his inaugural speech, senators have opened a hearing into the way police are running the drugs war after the killing of an abducted South Korean businessman, Jee Ick-joo, inside Camp Crame, the national police headquarters, allegedly by the police's Anti-Illegal Drugs Group who demanded and received a more than $US100,000 in ransom from his family.

Responding to the murder, Mr Duterte this week ordered a "cleansing" of rogue police and the breaking up of the country's anti-drugs units that will be replaced by a "narco police" command.

Police kidnappers allegedly produced a fake arrest warrant issued under the guise of the crackdown when they burst into Mr Jee's home near Manila. The head of the unit allegedly behind the killing is a close associate of national police chief Ronald dela Rosa.

Senators have also questioned the killing of a mayor in a jail on Leyte island last year.

Amnesty said its investigation detailing 33 cases involving the killings of 59 people showed that police are behaving like the criminal underworld that they are supposed to be enforcing the law against by carrying out extra-judicial executions disguised as unknown killers and "contracting out" killers.

It says the killings are driven by pressures from the top, including an order to "neutralise" alleged drugs suspects, as well providing money to create an informal economy of death.

Police claim that almost 2500 of the deaths occurred when suspects resisted arrest during operations. Thousands more have been by unknown armed assailants.

"What is happening in the Philippines is a crisis the entire world should be alarmed by," said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty's crisis response director.

"We are calling on the government, from President Duterte down, to order an immediate halt to all extra-judicial executions," she said.

"We are also calling on the Philippines Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute anyone involved in these killings, regardless of their rank or status in the police or government."

Ms Hassan said if Philippine authorities do not take decisive action to stop the killings, the International Criminal Court should investigate the involvement of officials "at the very top of government".

Mr Duterte, a 72-year-old former provincial mayor, was swept into office promising that fish in Manila Bay would grow fat from the bodies of suspects killed in his crackdown, which has been condemned by the United Nations and some Western nations, including the United States.

But the president's popularity remains high in a country of 100 million people where drugs have ravaged impoverished communities.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/police-paid-400-a-head-for-killings-in-rodrigo-dutertes-war-on-drugs-report-20170201-gu0yg4.html.

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