Research group: More than 5,000 drug-related deaths recorded in first 16 months of Duterte administration

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 25) — More than 5,000 drug-related deaths had been recorded from May 2016 to September 2017, the first 16 months of the Duterte administration.

This is one of the findings of a group of researchers led by experts from the Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, University of the Philippines, and Columbia Journalism School.

Ateneo School of Government Senior Research Fellow Clarissa David explained, the number was based on a set of publicly-available data on killings associated with the anti-drug campaign.

David said this number may still increase.

"Not included in this data set are victims whose deaths were not covered by media. This means we do not claim this list to be complete… it is in fact the most conservative list available but one where each entry is a real killing of a uniquely identifiable victim," David explained.

David said the study shows that most of the victims are poor.

She added, that more than half of the recorded drug-related deaths were killed in police operations, 38 percent were killed by assailants, while seven percent were just bodies that were discovered or found.

Meanwhile, Ateneo School of Government Dean Ronald Mendoza said the most number of drug-related deaths were recorded in Metro Manila at 2,000, while Bulacan recorded 644, and Cebu 383.

Mendoza added, almost half of those who were killed were allegedly small-time drug pushers, while 35% were suspected of being involved in drugs.

More than a thousand of those who were killed were allegedly in the drug watch list.

Mendoza questioned the reliability of the drug watch list.

"What is the role of the drug watch list? To what extent are these lists fully verified and transparent to the justice system? Who has legal access to these lists? How do names get in and out of the list?" Mendoza asked.

Ateneo School of Government's Research Fellow Michael Henry Yusingco said as of March 2018, 70% of barangays have a Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council.

However, Yusingco said, more than half of these councils failed to ensure that their barangay is drug-free.

Yusingco added, under the Local Government Code, local government officials have the responsibility to protect the poor and the vulnerable not just from drugs but from any state-sanctioned policy that puts the community in danger.

"We also hope for communities further demanding accountability from their local elected leaders. Voters should never forget those who have failed to meet the mandates of the Local Government Code," Yusingco said.

For his part, former PNP Director General and now Bureau of Corrections Chief Ronald dela Rosa admits most of those killed in the War against Drugs were poor.

"Kasi mas maraming mahirap na involved sa droga. Hindi gaanong maraming mayayaman. Alangan namang pilitin kong patayin iyong mayaman na hindi involved sa droga? Iyong mga namamatay, iyon iyong mga lumalaban na mahihirap. That's a reality. A sad reality of the drug situation in the country," Dela Rosa argued.

PNP data shows that since July 2016 til May 15, 2018, 4,279 drug suspects have been killed in police operations while almost 23,000 other suspected drug-related deaths are still being investigated.