War vs. poor: Police paid per drug killing – Amnesty International

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Police officers are paid as much as ₱15,000 for every drug suspect they kill, according to Amnesty International.

The human rights group released its investigation, "If you are poor you are killed: Extrajudicial Executions in the Philippines' War on Drugs," on Wednesday.

It said officers of Philippine National Police (PNP) were paid to kill thousands of drug offenders upon orders "from high-level officials."

An SPO1 officer, who did not want to be named and is allegedly a part of an anti-illegal drugs unit in Metro Manila, told Amnesty International they are given incentives when they kill.

"We always get paid by the encounter….The amount ranges from ₱8,000 to ₱15,000. That amount is per head. So if the operation is against four people, that's ₱32,000," he said.

He added they were secretly paid in cash through their payroll from police headquarters.

Killing — not arresting — a drug suspect is on the top of the officers' minds during anti-drug operations because the cash is in the people's deaths.

"There's no incentive for arresting. We're not paid anything. It never happens that there's a shootout and no one is killed," the officer said.

The report said "extrajudicial executions, perpetrated both by police during anti-drug operations and by paid killers with police involvement, appear to have been organized and planned by high-level officials."

Amnesty International has recorded more than 7,000 drug-related killings, while the PNP said it has killed 2,551 alleged drug suspects from July 1, 2016 to January 30. The PNP has also recorded 52,962 arrests.

Related; Palace: Drug surrenderees surpass million mark

Amnesty: Police killing unarmed Filipinos

Human rights group's Crisis Response director Tirana Hassan said alleged drug offenders are killed based on the "flimsiest of evidence."

"Under President Duterte's rule, the national police are breaking laws they are supposed to uphold while profiting from the murder of impoverished people the government was supposed to uplift," Hassan said.

She also said the Duterte administration's campaign is not war on drugs, but war on the poor.

The report also said the police operate on an unverified list of people allegedly selling or using illegal drugs, adding the suspects were killed even though they were unarmed or willing to surrender.

Citing two cases of extrajudicial killings from Batangas and Cebu, Amnesty International contradicted PNP Chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa's previous statement that drug suspects who resist arrest are the ones being killed.

"Kung hindi sila nanlaban, buhay pa sila," Dela Rosa said last August.

[Translation: If they did not fight back, they would still be alive.]

Duterte has repeatedly expressed his support for the police, saying he will back them up as long as they follow his orders.

Related: Duterte admits innocents get killed in drug war

Amnesty International said the Duterte administration should immediately order to end all police operations involving unnecessary or excessive use of force.

The government suspended the war on drugs on Monday, as the war against rogue cops is the administration's new priority.

Related: Manila posts zero deaths from police operations on day of 'tokhang' suspension

The report was based on an independent probe of 33 incidents of drug-related killings. Witnesses, policemen, drug users, paid killers, and local authorities were interviewed from November to December 2016. 

PNP, Sen. Gordon look for basis of findings

PNP Chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa doubted the findings of Amnesty International, saying it was meant to discredit the administration.

"Paninira naman. File a complaint. Ilabas nila ang taong yan. Dalhin sa Ombudsman para magkaliwanagan tayo. Mahirap yung ganun na according to ano, according ganito eh," he said.

[Translation: Produce the so-called witness and bring the matter to court so that we don't base things on someone's say-so.]

Senator Richard Gordon, who led the investigation of extrajudicial killings, is also looking for proof.

"They can say anything about that but they still have to prove it and it's a good thing that they say that because that puts a hold on some reckless people who may be doing such thing."

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, meanwhile, insisted the drug campaign had been effective in ridding the streets of drug addicts.

"Hindi naman totoo yan, ganyan din yung [Those claims are not true, similar to claims of] Human Rights Watch. Crimes against humanity? 'Yung mga criminals, 'yung mga drug lords, drug pushers they are not the humanity," he said.

Amnesty International's full report: "If you are poor you are killed: Extrajudicial Executions in the Philippines' War on Drugs,