No less than 1,900 persons have been killed in a violent campaign against drugs in the Philippines since President Rodrigo Duterte took over office seven weeks ago, the country’s national police chief said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a senate hearing into the sharp rise in deaths since Duterte became president, the police chief Ronald dela Rosa said that a total of 1,916 deaths had been recorded during the crackdown, 756 of which were during police operations.
He said the number had gone up even since he gave evidence on Monday, where he gave a figure of 1,800 deaths.
“Not all deaths under investigations are drug-related,” he told news agency Reuters, saying about 40 killings were due to robbery or personal disputes.
According to him, police were also investigating around 1,100 other drug-related killings, adding that there was no declared policy to kill drug users and pushers.
“We are not butchers,” he said.
“The rest of the dead were people killed in police anti-narcotics operations,” dela Rosa added.
“This has a chilling effect,” said Senator Frank Drilon after the police chief’s deposition. “We are all concerned about the number of deaths, by any language this is alarming.”
Duterte had on Sunday railed against the United Nations for criticizing the wave of deaths.
The United States, a close ally of the Philippines, said it was “deeply concerned” by the reports, and US State Department spokesman Mark Toner urged Duterte’s government to ensure that law-enforcement authorities abided by human rights norms.