MANILA - An anti-crime watchdog is urging President Rodrigo Duterte to create a special task force of policemen and prosecutors to investigate the deaths of innocent individuals dubbed "collateral damage" in the government's anti-narcotics campaign.
"Nagkaroon kami ng initial assessment na mukhang marami nga talagang nadadamay na tinatawag nga ni President Duterte na collateral damage and we call collateral victims -- iyung mga nako-cross fire, mga napagkakamalan," Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) founding chairman Dante Jimenez told radio DZMM.
(We conducted an initial assessment and found that many people have ended up as what President Duterte calls 'collateral damage' and what we call 'collateral victims' -- they slain in cross fire or were victims of mistaken identity.)
Included in the crackdown's mounting collateral victims, he said, were five teenagers who died as masked gunmen chased and fired shots at a suspected drug dealer in Phase 8, Caloocan city last week.
The shots hit the youngsters who were partying at a house near the shanty of alias Junior Santor.
Gunfire also killed Santor's mother Christina and his pregnant common law wife, Analyn Dayamla, inside their house which was allegedly used as a drug den.
Jimenez said only one of the slain teenagers previously dabbled with drugs, according to his relatives, while the other four minors had no criminal record.
Jimenez added that some residents in the victims' community also suspect that the incident may not have been a vigilante attack but a covert police operation.
Higher police officials, he said, must investigate this claim
"Dapat talaga ma-identify ito. Meron naman sigurado nag-utos dyan sa AIDSOTF o kung sino ang operative dyan sa area na iyan. May command responsibility iyan e. Matutukoy iyan ng mga regional director siguro, kilala nila iyan," he said.
(They should identify who is responsible. There may be someone who gave an order to the AIDSOTF or the operative in that area. There is a command responsibility there. The regional police directors may know who gave the order.)
Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa earlier insisted the police had no involvement in the killing.
Authorities have captured one gunman and are conducting follow-up investigation.
More than 6,100 people have been killed in the past six months during Duterte's controversial war on drugs, about a third in police operations and others classified as deaths under investigation. Police say killings during counter-narcotics operations were in self-defense.
The crackdown, the core plank of Duterte's election campaign, has been condemned internationally and has created tension between the Philippines and key allies and donors, among them the European Union, United States and United Nations.
Duterte has hit back with stunning rebukes and says he is willing to "rot in jail" to rid the Philippines of a drugs problem he initially vowed to solve within three to six months. He says the scourge was bigger than he first thought. With Reuters