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  • Activists take part in a rally against President Rodrigo Duterte

    Activists take part in a rally against President Rodrigo Duterte's ruthless war on drugs in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines, Aug. 18, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 31 August 2017

More than 3,500 people have been killed since June 30, 2016, in the so-called war on drugs.

The Philippine National Police has asked for a US$18 million budget for anti-drug operations for 2018, amid concern about the scale of the bloodshed in President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature campaign promise.

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Philippine lawmakers expressed their concern over the huge budget jump after a briefing from the Department of the Interior.

“This is over 4,000 percent increase from only 20 million pesos this year,” Congressperson Carlos Zarate told reporters. “How many more deaths are we expecting here?“ How many more Kian delos Santoses will die?”

Zarate was referring to the 17-year-old student who was killed this month by the drugs squad in what police said was self-defense during an attempt to arrest the teenager.

More than 3,500 people have been killed since June 30, 2016, in anti-drug sting operations and police say some 2,100 homicides have occurred during that same time that were drug-related.

Activists have accused the police of executing suspected drug dealers and users, but the authorities reject that and say those killed in operations had violently resisted arrest.

Duterte also said his campaign is justified because drugs are destroying the Philippines and are a root cause of rampant crime. He has stressed that police should only kill suspects as a last resort when their lives were in danger.

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In total, the police were requesting a 20 billion pesos US$400 million increase in their 2018 budget.

Senator Ralph Recto urged closer scrutiny of the proposed budget, which is set to be discussed at a plenary session next week.

“Before such a campaign is reloaded with funds, questions as to how it will be implemented must first be asked,” Recto said in a statement.

“What is the increase for, what are the targets? That should be clarified,” he said, adding the additional budget should go to the internal affairs division to discipline rogue police.

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