Why would we need a hit squad? Philippines police chief denies state killings

Director general Ronald Dela Rosa says allegations by a senior officer interviewed by the Guardian are untrue

The chief of the Philippine national police has issued a vehement denial of allegations of secretive state sanctioned death squads revealed by the Guardian.

Ronald Dela Rosa responded to questioning about the report based on an interview with a senior officer in the force who claimed he led one of 10 special operations teams, each with 16 members, tasked with killing suspected drug users, dealers and criminals.

The officer claimed the hit squads are composed of active police officers and that the murders are conducted in such a way as to make them appear to be perpetrated by vigilantes to deliberately obscure police involvement and investigation.

For the record, I vehemently deny such formation of a hit squad, Dela Rosa told reporters in Manila.

Why would you need to form a hit squad when you can use the regular performance duties of a regular cop for anti-illegal drugs operations? Why would you need a hit squad? the director-general added.

The Guardian report included allegations that lists of targets to neutralise are given to the teams by their police superiors.

Since the countrys new president, Rodrigo Duterte, initiated his war on drugs three months ago more than 3,600 people have been killed 1,390 in police operations and 2,294 by purported vigilantes.

In an apparent endorsement by Filipinos of his policies, an independent survey showed on Thursday that Dutertes is still immensely popular.

Just over 75% percent of Filipinos polled by Social Weather Stations said they were satisfied with Dutertes performance, with 11% reporting being dissatisfied

Dela Rosa, meanwhile, rejected the claims about death squads, calling instead for the Guardian to reveal its source.

Ill tell the reporter that the report is a hoax. She is inventing her story if she doesnt tell me who that senior police official is, said Dela Rosa, as quoted in Rappler.com.

The Guardian went to extensive lengths to independently verify the officer was an active officer in the Philippine police force and key details about the officers service history and rank were also confirmed.

The interview was conducted on the condition of anonymity to protect the safety of those involved.

Responding to the allegations, Dela Rosa also chastised the officer for tarnishing the reputation of the PNP.

I hope the writer presents to me that official, he said, And the official making those claims, I hope he has balls. Youre an official and thats what you do, destroy the organisation? What kind of official are you? You have no balls.

Dela Rosa, also as known as Bato or the rock, was formerly the police chief of Davao, a city in Mindanao that has long been dogged by allegations of police-linked death squads.

Duterte, who was mayor of Davao for more than two decades before becoming president, handpicked Dela Rosa for the national role.

Dela Rosa has defiantly defended the presidents drug war and at time echoed his inflammatory remarks. In August he urged Filipinos to douse the houses of drug lords with gasoline and set them on fire, a statement for which he later apologised.

Despite the wave of international criticism over the thousands of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines over recent months, Dela Rosa insisted this week the police are winning the war on drugs.

Im very proud to say that despite all the criticisms and noises, extrajudicial killings and summary killings accusations against me and the PNP, things like that, still we face our mission with more courage because I know that we are working for the people, he said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/06/why-would-we-need-a-hit-squad-philippines-police-chief-denies-state-killings