Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo said Wednesday the nation’s drug war had left Filipinos feeling “hopeless and helpless” and that trust in the police had eroded as a result of thousands of summary executions.
In a video message to a United Nations meeting on extrajudicial killings posted online, Robredo also called for international scrutiny on President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial crackdown.
“Some of those who have told us that when there is crime, they normally go to the police, now, they don’t know where to turn,” Robredo said in the message, which was released to the press ahead of its screening at the UN meeting in Austria on Thursday.
Duterte won the presidential election last year after promising to eradicate illegal drugs in society with an unprecedented crackdown in which tens of thousands of people would die.
But the vice president is elected separately in the Philippines, and Robredo belongs to a rival political party.
Since Duterte took office at the end of June last year, police have reported killing 2,500 people in anti-drug operations while about 4,500 others have died in unexplained circumstances.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have warned Duterte may be overseeing crimes against humanity with state-sanctioned killings.
Duterte and his police chiefs have insisted security forces are not breaking any laws.
They have said nearly all of those killed by police were killed in self-defense while the unexplained deaths were likely due to drug gangs eliminating rivals or others who could implicate them.
In her message to the United Nations, Robredo described all those deaths as “summary executions.”
Robredo also said police were detaining innocent people in a scheme known as “exchange heads.” In that practice, if police officers could not find a drug suspect, they would detain one of his or her relatives instead, according to Robredo.
Duterte sacked Robredo from his cabinet in December last year after she started speaking out against his drug war and some of his other policies. Her comments to the UN meeting are among her strongest criticisms of Duterte.