VERA FILES FACT CHECK: When did the anti-drugs campaign under Duterte officially begin?

IT was only two months after he assumed the presidency that police started their “legitimate” operations against illegal drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte said.

STATEMENT:

At the inauguration of the Circulating Fluidized Bed Combustion (CFBC) of the Palm Concepcion Power Plant in Malacañang Palace on Nov. 28, Duterte said:

“And so even before I became a President, there were already killings. They were really trying to purge everybody. May cleansing sila eh. It was not until after two months that we began the legitimate operations of the police.”

The president said drug syndicates involving top-rank police officials had started cleansing their ranks even before he took his oath on June 30. Police officers are not responsible for “producing mummies in this country,” he said.

Extrajudicial killings, he added, are merely an issue of politics.

(Source: Inauguration and Ceremonial Switch-On of the 135-Megawatt Circulating Fluidized Bed Combustion (CFBC) Power Plant of the Palm Concepcion Power Plant (PCPC), Nov. 28, 2016. Watch from 20:52 to 22:09)

FACT:

Project Double Barrel, the “official” anti-illegal drugs campaign of the Philippine National Police, was launched on July 1, a day after Duterte’s inauguration.

It was launched through a Command Memorandum Circular (CMC) signed by PNP Chief Ronald de la Rosa himself. The 18-page circular sets the general guidelines, procedures and tasks of police offices in neutralizing drug personalities and the backbone of illegal drugs in the country.

Page 3 of the document reads: “This CMC will be launched and implemented on the first day of office of the CPNP.” CPNP means “Chief of the Philippine National Police.” De la Rosa took oath as PNP chief on July 1.

PNP official data from July 1 to Nov. 29 furnished to VERA Files show a total of 2,004 drug suspects killed and 38,587 others arrested in legitimate police operations. A total of 37,346 police operations have been conducted since the president took office.

VERA Files requested weekly and monthly figures from the PNP to determine how many were killed during the two months when there was supposedly no legitimate police operations against illegal drugs, but the PNP provided only a total count up to Nov. 29.

When Duterte marked his 100th day in office, data released to VERA Files on Oct. 4 showed a total of 1,377 drug suspects have already been killed by the police.

Almost three months into the Duterte administration, the PNP has recorded a total of 1,817 deaths arising from murders without known suspects as of Sept. 21. The report, however, did not contain killings from legitimate police operations.

In October, three months after Duterte took office, data-crunching by VERA Files based on Inquirer.net’s “The Kill List” showed that close to 60 percent of killings were from legitimate police operations, while the rest were carried out by unknown hitmen.

The killings spiked days after Duterte named on July 7 the country’s alleged top three drug lords, and after he released on Aug. 25 the New Bilibid Prison drug matrix. (See: War on drugs: What the numbers show)

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