The former national police chief who kick-started the Philippine government's bloody war on drugs has asked for forgiveness from a Catholic archbishop over the thousands of deaths that occurred during his watch. Human rights groups claim more than 20,000 suspected drug users and dealers have been killed in President Rodrigo Duterte's two-and-a-half year drug war
. The Philippine National Police, however, admit to only about 4,540 since the campaign started in 2016 while another 23,000 are under investigation. "I am asking for forgiveness for all those killed in our war on drugs because it [bothers] my conscience," said former police general Ronald dela Rosa
. He admitted most of the killings occurred while he headed the Philippine National Police. In 2016, Duterte handpicked Dela Rosa, who like him also hails from the southern city of Davao, to be national police chief. After his retirement in April last year, Duterte named him director-general of the Bureau of Corrections. "Even though I was not the one who killed and shot them, I was the [national police] chief. It happened under my watch," Dela Rosa told reporters after meeting Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona of Caceres
on Feb. 6. Asked what was the prelate's response was during their meeting, Dela Rosa said the archbishop "embraced and blessed me." "He gave me [a] special something that would protect me wherever I go," said the retired policeman who added that he always asks for God’s forgiveness "every time a person is killed in our fight against drugs." "I guess there is no bishop or priest who would say that they will not forgive you.... [The bishop] will forgive me because he is a representative of God," said Dela Rosa. Bishop Tirona could not be reached as of posting time for comment on his meeting with the former police general.