Philippines president to allow media on drug raids to disprove killings

The Philippines president has ordered police to let journalists join raids in his crackdown on illegal drugs to disprove growing allegations of extrajudicial killings - but warned reporters they could be shot.

Rodrigo Duterte issued the order in a news conference after a televised senate investigation into the allegations in which the national police chief, Ronald dela Rosa, wept over what he said was his exasperation over unfair allegations against his men.

"Now, this is an order: bring the media and let them go first so that they can get the story from the beginning to the end. If you allow them in and the gun battle is over, you'll just say, 'Ah, they just dumped the guns on the suspects," Mr Duterte said.

"If you get shot, will you still believe that those (suspects) have no guns? Go ahead," the president said, adding that the journalists should take positions right beside law enforcers during raids on suspected drug dealers' hideouts.

Mr Duterte's crackdown, which has left thousands of suspects dead and horrified human rights groups, came under renewed scrutiny after police gunned down a 17-year-old student, Kian Loyd delos Santos, during a raid in a slum in Manila last month.

Police said he was a drug dealer who fired at officers during the raid, but his family and witnesses told official investigations, including in the senate, that he was shot in a dark alley as he pleaded for his life.

Witnesses pointed to evidence, including a village security video, which they said showed two police officers dragging away the teenager shortly before shots rang out and he was found fatally shot in the head, holding a pistol with his left hand although his parents said he was right-handed.

Police told the senate that Kian was not the one seen being dragged in the video, although several witnesses doubted the statement.

Murder and torture complaints have been filed against three police officers and their commander over the August 16 shooting. Amid a growing outcry, Mr Duterte has said the officers will end up in jail if they killed Kian, and met the student's parents to express his condolences.

Mr Duterte has recently been clearer in warning officers they will face the law if they are found to have carried out extrajudicial killings. Before, he promised to defend police from lawsuits and grant them a presidential pardon if they are convicted of any crimes while fighting illegal drugs.

Kian's death was followed by another outcry over the killing of Carl Angelo Arnaiz, a 19-year-old who police said was killed in a shootout with police after he robbed a taxi driver last month.

A government forensic expert said Mr Arnaiz was apparently handcuffed, tortured and shot five times, causing his death.

His parents said he went out with a friend to buy a snack late at night but never returned home. They found him in a morgue 10 days later, but his 14-year-old friend remains missing.

Mr Duterte has stressed his administration does not condone extrajudicial killings, although he has repeatedly threatened drug suspects with death in the past.

He sounded astonished at the outcry over the deaths of Kian and Mr Arnaiz.

"Two killings makes it a policy of the Republic of the Philippines?" Mr Duterte asked. "Why would we kill the innocent?"

AP


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