New Philippine Prison Chief Threatens Killings of Jailed ‘Drug Lords’
Dela Rosa Already Linked to Alleged Crimes Against Humanity
By Phelim Kine
Deputy Asia Director
Human Rights Watch
Dela Rosa, who retired last month as director general of the Philippine National Police, exhorted prison guards this week at Manila’s New Bilibid Prison to summarily execute imprisoned “drug lords.”
“You’re afraid of drug lords? If they can kill you, you can also kill them because they’re in prison. You’re afraid of dying? I hate cowards,” Dela Rosa told guards according to press accounts.
Dela Rosa’s comments were no surprise. As police chief, he deployed the forces that have waged President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous “war on drugs.” That campaign has targeted mainly urban slum dwellers and resulted in the deaths of more than 12,000 suspected drug dealers and users, including children, by police and police-backed vigilantes.
Dela Rosa was an enthusiastic supporter of the anti-drug campaign, which Duterte launched after taking office in June 2016. He rejected concerns about the soaring death toll of the police operations, saying the deaths were proof of an “uncompromising” police approach to drug crimes. He slammed calls by lawmakers for an investigation into the killings as “legal harassment,” saying it “dampens the morale” of police officers. He has rejected calls for accountability for the drug-war deaths, and has said he is willing to face prosecution for his role. Dela Rosa, Duterte, and other top officials implicated in inciting and instigating the killings of drug suspects are facing heightened international scrutiny for their role in possible crimes against humanity.
Dela Rosa’s comments suggest he will apply the same disregard for rule of law and accountability that defined his tenure as police director general in his new role as head of the Bureau of Corrections. But he should be on notice that the International Criminal Court has begun a preliminary examination into the drug war killings, and would likely consider any extension of that deadly campaign into Philippine prisons. And any such killings will also likely add to growing momentum inside the United Nations for a separate UN inquiry. These developments suggest that sooner or later, Dela Rosa may be held to account for his ongoing role in the bloody campaign he continues to zealously endorse.
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