Police stand guard at a scene of a drug-related killing in Manila. Human rights groups estimate that close to 12,000 suspected drug users and peddlers have been killed in the one-year old anti-narcotics war of the government. (Photo by Vincent Go)
Seven out of ten Filipinos are afraid that they or family members will fall victim to extrajudicial killings linked to the government's war on drugs.
Results of a national survey by local pollster Social Weather Stations released on Oct. 5 show that the number of those "very worried" of becoming targets increased to 41 percent compared to 37 percent in a March survey.
The Visayas region, a cluster of islands in the central Philippines, showed the highest percentage of worried individuals at 77 percent.
Several suspected drug lords have been killed in the region in the past year and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has named several provinces in the region as the next targets of his anti-narcotics war.
National Police chief Ronald de la Rosa, however, said on Oct. 6 that there was only a single case of extrajudicial killing since Duterte assumed office in June last year.
"The possibility of them becoming victim of [extrajudicial killings] is very remote if we base it on facts and not on impressions or perceptions," said the police chief in a statement.
De la Rosa's statement is belied by dozens of murder and attempted murder accusations filed by families of slain drug-war suspects.
The police chief said authorities have arrested more than 100,000 drug suspects and accepted the surrender of more than a million others.
Survey results show that three out of five Filipinos agree that only the poor are targeted for killings and that many of the victims had surrendered.
The survey results came as Catholic Church officials reported giving sanctuary to police who wanted to admit their involvement in the killings.
Meanwhile, church and human rights groups have criticized a community-based crime reporting system launched by the government in villages.
An order released by the Interior Department last month instructed local government units to set up drop boxes where residents can report suspected drug offenders and criminals.
Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila warned that the "anti-drug drop boxes" would only promote "senseless killings."
The prelate said police should instead "do intelligence work properly, be objective, and follow the rule of law."
Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of rights group Karapatan, said the drop box system "will neither solve criminality nor ensure the security of citizens."
"Such solutions are unreliable and shortsighted, and will merely promote unnecessary paranoia and rifts between and among members of a community," she said.
Palabay said anyone "can be targeted, regardless of guilt or innocence." She said the police are creating a hit list, "and they are asking everyone to write it for them."
Despite the fear noted by the result of the survey, 67 percent of Filipinos still believe the Duterte government is serious in solving cases of extrajudicial killings, a figure slightly lower than the 70 percent in the March survey.