20,322 Filipinos killed in Duterte’s drug war in just 17 months, or almost 40 a day

Erik De Castro/Reuters

A total of 20,322 drug suspects were killed in just 17 months in the course of the bloody anti-drug war of former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the House of Representatives committee on human rights learned Wednesday.

The figure is more than three times the official count – which was 6,200 – acknowledged by the Duterte administration for the duration of his six-year watch.

In the course of Wednesday’s hearing by the committee chaired by Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr., human rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno read a portion of an “extended resolution” of the Supreme Court which cited figures on drug war deaths supplied by Duterte’s own office.

He said the SC took note of the 2017 yearend accomplishment report of the Office of the President in a case entitled, “Amora vs Dela Rosa” (former Philippine National Police chief and now Sen. Ronald dela Rosa), filed in 2018.

Quoting the SC resolution citing the OP report, Diokno said a total of 20,322 drug suspects were killed between July 1, 2016 and Nov. 27, 2017.

He said of the death toll, 3,967 were killed “by the police in police operations,” while 16,355 were waylaid “by riding in tandem and other unknown persons.”

He said the SC resolution put the daily average of drug suspects killed “at 39.46” during the period cited in the OP accomplishment report.

“This Court wants to know why so many deaths happened,” Diokno quoted the resolution.

Asked by Abante about the 6,200 official figure, the human rights lawyer said, “I don’t know where it came from.”

Drug watch groups had estimated that between 27,000 and 30,000 were killed in Duterte’s drug war during his administration.

Asked to comment on the SC resolution quoted by Diokno, Duterte’s Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said he would have to check on it.

However, he said, “There were various figures floated – 6,000, 30,000 and now more than 20,000. We don’t know anymore which to believe.”

After hearing Diokno, Abante said, “This in unimaginable. I never realized this could happen.”

However, he chided Diokno and other human rights lawyers for failing to file a “class suit” against Duterte.

“Your honor, the families of the victims were afraid – and are afraid until now – to file cases,” responded Diokno.

The mothers of two drug suspects and the wife of another tearfully narrated to the human rights committee how their sons and husband disappeared and became victims of “tokhang.”

Dalia Quartero claimed her 26-year-old son Jessie Quartero was killed by the Bulacan police, while Kristine Pascual said her 17-year-old son was slain by Pangasinan policemen.

Honey Jane Lee, on the other hand, said her husband Michael, a jeepney passenger barker, was a “tokhang” victim of the Caloocan police.

The victims’ relatives were assisted by lawyer Kristina Conti of Rise up for Life and for Rights in coming out to tell their stories.

Conti said there are many more families whose kin died in the hands of policemen during Duterte’s drug war that are still afraid to tell their sad experiences publicly.

Abante assured them of safety and protection if they testify before his committee.

“I myself is laying my life on the line here. They should not be afraid,” the Manila lawmaker said.

The victims’ relatives said they hoped the International Criminal Court would soon find Duterte responsible for the drug war deaths.

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