Updated 19:44 PM PHT Wed, March 15, 2017
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Philippine National Police (PNP) said Vice President Leni Robredo should cite specific incidents of the alleged "palit-ulo" scheme in the Duterte administration's war on drugs.
The PNP's statement comes after Robredo, a critic of the Duterte administration, said relatives of drug suspects are being taken and used as collateral — if the suspects manage to hide from the police.
She made the allegation in a YouTube video message for the 60th United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
"They told us of the "palit-ulo" scheme, which literally means "exchange heads," where the wife or husband or relative of a person in a so-called drug list will be taken if the person himself could not be found," she said.
PNP Spokesman Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos said in a Wednesday press briefing this alleged scheme is not standard police practice.
"Kung this is a new allegation, let us be more specific," he said. "Saan nangyari? Sino itong mga ito? Kasi lalabas na ina-attach natin sa Oplan Tokhang."
[Translation: If this is a new allegation, let us be more specific. Where did this happen? Who are these victims? This is because it will be attached to Oplan Tokhang.]
The government launched last week its revamped war on drugs after President Rodrigo Duterte suspended it for alleged police abuse.
PNP Chief Ronald Dela Rosa assured the public that the new campaign will be "less bloody" than previous one, which PNP data said resulted in 2,500 suspects dead, over 53,000 arrested and nearly 1.2 million suspects who surrendered within six months.
Vigilante killings being resolved
The PNP also cried foul over the Vice President's generalization that all deaths in police anti-drug operations since July 2016 were summary executions.
"We are now looking at some very grim statistics," Robredo said. "Since July last year, more than 7,000 people have been killed in summary executions."
However, Carlos said there are cases of killings that are not drug-related.
PNP data showed more than 4,300 mysterious deaths were reported nationwide from July 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017.
Of these, Carlos said only 1,200 were drug-related, while the PNP has yet to determine the motive of the other deaths.
"'Yun lang request namin na huwag i-generalize na ito," Carlos said. "When can we say that it's being practiced by all? What is the right number? Bago natin sabihin na ito ay sanctioned ng gobyerno, let's be more specific sana doon."
[Translation: Our only request is that we don't generalize these deaths as summary killings. When can we say that it's being practiced by all? What is the right number? Before we say that these deaths are State-sanction, let us be more specific.]
The PNP said they are working to resolve vigilante-style killings. Carlos pointed out, police have filed more than 1,300 cases before the courts and arrested 803 suspects.
"Patuloy po nating aalamin ang estado ng ibang kaso na dapat ay patuloy na iniimbestigahan, so hindi ho yung 'di pa tapos ang pag-iimbestiga, nagkakaroon na tayo ng tag na ito ay extrajudicial killings," he said.
[Translation: Let's continue to learn about the present status of cases under investigation, and let's not tag as extrajudicial killings those deaths where the investigations are still not finished.]
Carlos also said errant police officers will be punished once there is sufficient proof.
"Kung mayroong nagkamali, alamin natin at sila ay panagutin sa kanilang pagkakamaling nagawa, hindi yung sasabihing ito ay normal na kaganapan sa buong organisasyon," he added.
[Translation: If there are those who do something wrong, let us investigate and hold them accountable, but do not say that these transgressions are normal for the entire organization.]
CNN Philippines Digital Producer VJ Bacungan contributed to this report.