MALACAÑANG defended Friday the government's intensified anti-drug operations, which resulted in deaths of suspected drug personalities, saying the raids were "not a reckless exercise of bloodletting."
"This is not a reckless exercise of bloodletting. There's a rhyme and reason in the police operations," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.
The Palace official backed members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), saying the police were simply fulfilling their mandate to deal with the worsening drug problem in the country.
"We're simply saying that we understand. And of course, it should be addressed by the PNP themselves. But from our perspective, the police are taking their own steps in addressing that issue of making sure that the demand for illegal drugs be reduced," he added.
This week, the PNP conducted a "One Time, Big Time" operations against drug suspects in Bulacan, Manila, and Camanava area (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela), in which at least 70 people were killed.
In Bulacan, police said 32 suspected drug personalities were killed, the highest death toll in a single day since President Rodrigo Duterte waged his war on illegal drugs in July last year.
On Wednesday, Duterte lauded the deadly operations carried out by Bulacan policemen and even endorsed more killings of drugs suspects in the coming days to “reduce what ails the country.”
His endorsement had apparently boosted the morale of authorities in Manila, who killed over 20 alleged drug peddlers in overnight drug raids.
This was followed by simultaneous police anti-drug operations in Camanava area that killed close to 20 people, including a 17-year-old Grade 11 student in Caloocan City.
Kian Lloyd Santos, 17, was reportedly killed during a police operation in Barangay 160 in Caloocan City after he purportedly engaged police officers in a shootout. Witnesses, however, claimed that Santos was forced to offer resistance.
Abella brushed aside the killing of Santos, saying it was "haply, I think, is isolated."
Abella said that it was clear that Duterte issued a warning against drug syndicates and their cohorts “to give up and shape up before it is too late.”
He, however, clarified that the PNP was “actively” launching massive anti-narcotics raids, not because of the President’s “endorsement.”
“I don’t think they’re simply active, based on the President’s endorsements. It just so happened they are taking active steps in addressing the drug situation in the Philippines,” Abella said.
“First and foremost, we need to understand that police authorities follow protocols during the conduct of operations. They are following protocols,” he added.
The brutal crackdown on illegal drugs has prompted Vice President Leni Robredo to express her dismay.
Robredo, in an interview on Thursday, decried the rising number of alleged drug suspects slain in the country.
"This matters call the need for us to express outrage. We are not like that. This is not us," she said. "We have long condemned the culture of impunity. Let us not allow it to return."
The Presidential spokesperson said Robredo was entitled to her opinion but should understand that Duterte simply wanted "to make sure that the nation is safe."
Despite criticisms hurled against the administration's brutal war on drugs, Abella said a majority of the Filipino people still feel "safer" under Duterte's leadership.
"I think, it's just about time that those who are in the government and those who are in a position to do something about it should be able to address these matters and end these matters forcefully," Abella said.
"The average Filipinos understand what should be done in the country. And again and again, we hear people say, 'It's safer, they feel more comfortable.' And in fact, they appreciate the fact that the Philippines is being made safe again," he added.
Abella assured the public that appropriate sanctions would be meted against police officers who would go against the PNP’s protocols.
"Should there be any breach of protocols, they shall be addressed and the appropriate charges will be made and those who are responsible will be made answerable to the law," he said. (SunStar Philippines)