MANILA: Philippine police have killed three drug suspects in a shootout, officials said Sunday, the latest such deaths after the election of tough anti-crime firebrand Rodrigo Duterte as president.
A spate of recent criminal killings by police has spiked fears of a extra-judicial crackdown in the country after incoming leader Duterte vowed to stamp out crime by all means necessary.
Police were called to the home of a suspected drug dealer on the tiny island of Banacon in central Philippines before dawn Saturday when gunfire broke out between the suspect and police, leaving the accused and three associates injured.
The accused drug trafficker Rowen Secretaria and two unidentified men were pronounced dead after being taken to hospital, while the fourth was treated for gunshot wounds, local police officer Roel Lagora told Agence France-Presse.
“The armed men shot at the raiding team several times, prompting the latter to defend themselves and return fire,” Lagora told AFP by telephone, reading an official account of the incident.
Filipino police have killed 12 other drug suspects across the country in the past week, while unknown gunmen murdered two other men linked by police to illegal drugs.
Duterte has warned security forces will kill tens of thousands of criminals and ignore human rights, part of a campaign pledge to eradicate the scourge of drugs that many voters rated as their top concern.
The soon-to-be leader, who is also the sitting mayor of the southern city of Davao, has been accused of backing vigilante death squads that have murdered more than a thousand people in Davao, including more than 100 minors.
Civil rights groups have criticized Duterte for his threats, describing his proposed methods as illegal and unconstitutional.
Police have denied suggestions they are implementing Duterte’s campaign promises before he takes office on June 30, insisting earlier this month that the first eight suspects were killed in self-defense.
Banacon lies about 20 kilometers (12 miles) off the coast of Cebu, the country’s second-largest city after the capital Manila.
The newly elected Cebu mayor, Tomas Osmeña, told AFP earlier this month he would pay police bounties of 50,000 pesos ($1,060) for each criminal they killed, and 5,000 pesos for wounding them.
Osmeña could not be reached for comment by AFP on Sunday, but on his Facebook page he described the operation against Secretaria, whom he called “the biggest drug lord” in two Cebu districts.
“This is just one of four operations being conducted this weekend. Will report the others tomorrow,” Osmena wrote. AFP