14 suspected drug pushers killed in one-night police anti-crime drive in Manila

Updated with quotes from PNP Chief Ronald Dela Rosa and Vice President Leni Robredo

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 17) — More alleged drug pushers fall in the government's war against illegal drugs.

Twenty-five suspects were killed and more than 150 were arrested in the "one-time, big-time" anti-drug and anti-criminality operations in Manila on Wednesday, said Senior Superintendent Danilo Macerin, the Manila Police District Chief of Directorial Staff in an interview.

Fourteen of the 25 killed were alleged drug pushers who were part of the Manila police's watchlist, Macerin added.

The 40 simultaneous operations overnight also led to the deaths of 11 robbery and hold-up suspects, while those arrested were for different crimes, including drug-related crimes.

Macerin said the suspects resisted arrest, which lead to their deaths. He added that the police operations were legitimate.

"Talagang lumaban naman yung mga suspects na namatay… Based doon sa mga reports that we received from the different station commanders, the lives of our policemen were put into danger that's why lumaban din yung mga pulis natin," Macerin said.

[Translation: The suspects who died fought back. Based from reports that we received from different station commanders, the lives of our policemen were put into danger that's why our police officers also fight back.]

Macerin said Manila Police District Director Police Chief Superintendent Joel Coronel gave them weeks to plan and directed them to collect information on the suspects.

"Our DD (District Director) directed all station commanders to conduct intelligence effort para sa mga target natin for this operations three weeks ang binigay na timetable ni General Coronel," he said.

Just two days ago, 32 drug suspects were killed and at least 107 arrested by police in anti-drug operations across the province of Bulacan, which the police also termed "One Time Big Time."

Related: Police: 32 dead, 107 arrested in province-wide drug sweep

PNP: No order to kill suspects

Philippine National Police Chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa on Wednesday said the hundreds of suspects arrested is proof the operations were legitimate.

"Magtataka kayo kung patay lahat. Kaso maraming buhay na nahuli eh. So ang namamatay yung lumaban lang talaga," he said on a press briefing.

[Translation: You'll probably wonder if all of them were dead. But many were caught alive. So those who died were those who fought back.]

The PNP chief also explained the term the "one-time, big-time" term as a "synchronized, simultaneous, service of warrant, or buy-bust operation."

He added, "Siguro yung mga tao natin sa field ay gumagawa ng diskarte na tinatawag natin na 'one-time, big-time.' Nagkataon ang daming targets, multiple targets, expected talaga natin na may mamatay," he said.

[Translation: Maybe the people in the field are doing their own strategy. There are multiple targets, you can expect people will die.]

Dela Rosa said there is no order from him or from President Rodrigo Duterte to kill suspects.

"Wala tayong instruction sa mga tao natin na pumatay tayo nang pumatay. The President did not instruct me to kill and kill. Ako rin, wala akong instruction sa mga tao ko na pumatay kayo nang pumatay," he said.

[Translation: There is no instruction to our people to kill and kill. The President did not instruct me to kill. Me, too, I did not give any instruction to kill.]

Human rights group Amnesty International in an investigative report released in February said police officers are paid as much as P15,000 for every drug suspect they kill.

Related: Police paid per drug killing – Amnesty International

Vice President Leni Robredo, who believes human rights must be respected in the government's drug war, expressed her alarm over the 57 deaths.

She underscored the importance of making criminals accountable for their actions, but not at the cost of due process.

"Kung mayroong kasalanan, papanagutin, pero kailangan iyong due process, isinasaalang-alang. Kapag mayroong ganitong patayan, gustong sabihin may mga taong nilalagay sa sarili nilang kamay iyong batas. Hindi na hinahayaang gumiling pa iyong mga proseso na nasa Konstitusyon natin para siguruhin na iyong hustisya nabibigay para sa lahat," she said at a different event.

[Translation: If they are guilty, make them liable, but there should be due process. If there are these kinds of killings, it says a person puts law into their own hands. They are not allowing the laws under the Constitution to make sure justice is served.]

Dela Rosa said the criticism will not stop the government's fight against dangerous drugs.

"The instruction coming from the President is very clear, that our war on drugs is unrelenting. Tuloy pa rin up to the last drug personality is neutralized," he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday was all praises for the policemen who carried out the Bulacan drug raids.

He said if the police continue delivering such results, the Philippines has a shot at eradicating the country's drug problem.

"Maganda yun. Makapatay lang tayo ng another 32 every day, maybe we can fix what ails this country," he said.

[Translation: "That's good. If we can only kill 32 everyday, maybe we can fix what ails this country.]

Meanwhile, Metro Manila police chief Director Oscar Albayalde backed Dela Rosa, saying "in any police operation, there is a presumption of regularity."

"All the police operations being conducted by the police, these are all being investigated by our IAS (Internal Affairs Service). At kung may nagpapakita naman na there is any irregularity (if they do show irregularity), of course, our policemen will face both criminal and administrative charges," Albayalde told CNN Philippines' News Night on Thursday.

He added there are similar operations in other police districts, but with fewer deaths.

"Well in other districts, they also conduct 'one time, big time' operations particularly the Northern Police District... Ngunit siguro hindi lang ganun kalaki at karami yung napapatay during their simultaneous operations (The number of those killed during their simultaneous operations may not have been as big)," Albayalde said.

Related: Duterte praises police for 32 overnight drug kills in Bulacan

The government reports 3,451 drug suspects were killed in its anti-drug campaign from July 1 to July 26, 2017.

CNN Philippines' Camille Abadicio and Lara Tan contributed to this report.